I also have some notion about the Yuletide assignment, and adore both the requested canon and character, so that ought to be good.
In other news, I'm home for a week for check-ups and now have to cajole my advisor into letting me stay for another, because there are some interesting workshops and conferences in the city that I want and ought to attend.
Except... I ran away home without telling him, so this is gonna be interesting.
Full disclosure. ( aaand here a cut for talk of sexual assault in various contexts, including slavery )
ETA: Using my 'kanai' icon because rewatching the B.R. Chopra Mahabharat drives in the fact that for a text extremely open about violence, and an ability to provide human-and-divine (so that the divine is mostly ignorable) motivation for most actions, it skirts like hell around the question of Draupadi being disrobed and/or assaulted even while talking a *lot* about family honour in exactly that context, and avoids it entirely through divine intervention with yards and yards of sari.
The loot is as follows, in order of price:
- James Clavell, King Rat, for Rs. 150
- Terry Pratchett, The Hogfather, for Rs. 125
- Jacquie Durrell, Beasts in My Bed, for Rs. 70
- Mary Stewart, Rose Cottage, for Rs. 10
- E.F. Benson, Mapp & Lucia, for Rs. 10
- My RenaultX assignment is stalled on a point of etiquette. I have got a lot more concerned about historical accuracy than the last time I wrote in this fandom, and that's not really fun right now.
- I just received and am already in love with my rarelywritten assignment, so that at least is all to the good.
- Being on the fringes of any fandom is often hilarious, and the Legend of Korra fandom right now is in a right state.
- I'm contemplating a Georgian/AgeofSail!Charioteer AU, a sure sign of impending illness.
- I... do think I should move off from Renault fandom as a whole, since I don't seem to be coping with fairly trivial things very well.
Then at midnight, some half-hour ago, my family got together in my aunt and uncle's room for cake and presents. Well, mostly presents. Two sets of earrings (dagger, leaf) and a purse from my sister and cousin, cash from my aunt and uncle, and a black chiffon and a black t-shirt from my parents.
Excellent haul. *g*
I've known her for going on seven years now, and when we first encountered each other (in an RP called allinplaid) I was a snotty eighteen-year-old barely stepping into HP fandom and she was already a BNF in the Hermione/Sirius bits thereof. (Of course, whitmans_kiss and I managed to seduce her over to the slash side something awful fast, but let's pay that no never mind right now.) The last several years we haven't managed to quite keep up with each other, falling into parallel depressive spirals and kinda withdrawing from fandom at large, and I miss her something terrible some days. We have written together and I have often been in awe of her prolificity and proficience, but what stands out in my memory is the rp-ing. All the rp-ing. Years worth of pretending to be fictional lovers, friends, parents, children. nephews, cousins. All of the people I have been who have loved all the people she's been wildly, yearningly, with the easy glow of familial affection. All the ways in which I have loved her.
Dearest friend, elder-sister-in-a-different-land, beloved, I hope you are having a good birthday, that the year ahead is happier than not, that life treats you with great kindness.
This week I've been laid low by back-pain, but this morning I got up feeling slightly more purposeful and am now re-sorting through work I did for filia_noctis in a desultory sort of way. I have deadlines looming that I haven't been able to work towards (c.f. back) but hopefully today will see progress on that front.
The Joy is in the fact that filia_noctis returns from Bangalore in about another half-hour (♥ ♥ ♥), and since I've put off going home for another five days or so, we can sit and work through both our academic back-logs. Also that last night, when I was feeling very low, I called a friend intending to only chat for ten minutes if that and she realised I was fucked-up and held on for the next three hours, on the phone and in chat.
Today one of my juniors messaged me on Facebook “What are we going to do?” And that is how I found out that a female student in EFLU, while intoxicated—and therefore unable to meaningfully consent—had been allegedly molested by her male friends, who gave her weed prior to the attack. The molestation allegedly amounted to attempted rape; I add this because any number of sexual violations are trivialised in this country and on this campus.
Hearteningly, the administration appears to be taking all the correct steps. The student has lodged an F.I.R. and routing investigation is underway. Two students have been charged and two others interrogated in this connection. These are the facts as we have discovered them from local, regional-language news-media. The administration might have—and probably has—issued a statement to the media. The media reports—one cannot be sure of the absolute truth of this statement—that the police are emphasising the presence of intoxicants and narcotics; it is certainly true that a plainclothes raid was performed by the police on the boys’ hostel in search of narcotics. Given the usual she-was-asking-for-it trend regarding the sexual abuse of intoxicated women, this is slightly terrifying news, though to be fair nothing of the sort has been said yet.
It is important that this case be handled with immediacy and transparency, not only by the legal authorities but also by the university administration in the figure of a reconstituted GSCASH partially staffed by elected student members. It is equally important that it not be regarded as an isolated, unique event, the likes of which have never happened on this campus before, nor will happen since. EFLU is a good place, as far as gender equality goes: women smoke, booze, walk around campus late at night, have active sex-lives. It is also a place where sexual harassment is rife both within romantic relationships—yes, yes, that can happen, my children, and often does—and in encounters with strangers, acquaintances, and friends. Occasionally faculty members. Often seniors. Female students are subjected to moral-policing; their feminine performativity is strictly scrutinised; their dietary, smoking, and drinking habits are investigated and treated as symptomatic of their moral character; promiscuity is treated as license, of not to rape then to sexual harassment. Good girls are expected to toe ever-shrinking lines; bad girls—defined loosely as anyone who smokes, drinks, has sex, shouts, protests, has male friends—are construed as “asking for it”.
In the past—I can speak of the past four years and change—the university administration has dealt with cases of gendered violence—be it stone-pelting or catcalling—by advising female students to restrict their activities and movement. When students have been reluctant to do so, the administration has often taken the decision into their own hands and passed edicts making these restrictions obligatory. That it has not yet done so in this case is a good sign, though it is still early days.
Rules limiting female—and indeed male—students to increasingly restricted spaces and timings are not the answer. Barring entry into hostels, or closing the academic buildings after the end of class hours, are not measures that will decrease or end sexual and gendered violence—let us also remember that same-sex violence, not all of it sexual, also occurs and cannot be talked about in our hetero-patriarchal normativity. These measures will only restrict camaraderie between students and, by suspecting all cross-gender interactions to be sexual in nature, increase the possibility of gendered violence. Rather than enforcing rules that limit female students—and also male students, though rules limiting them are few and far-between in EFLU—to classrooms, hostels, and heavily-policed spaces, the administration should embark upon and encourage gender-sensitization campaigns across campus, among students of all genders as well as among teaching and non-teaching staff.
In India, we live by default in a rape-culture, where the rape-survivor is supposed to be a living corpse and is indeed often killed by her family if she survives the assault, where the verbal harassment of women in public is seen as normal behaviour and only to be expected if one ventures out-of-doors, where domestic violence is a domestic matter and incestuous assaults on children—as well as assaults by friends and strangers—are universally treated as the fault of the attacked individual. Girls, we are told, “must have done something” to have been raped, and boys “can’t control themselves”. We prize honour and honour-killings and corrective rape above love affairs that are inter-religious, inter-caste, inter-community, or intra-sexual. Promiscuous women, prostitutes and sex-workers of various stamps are held impossible to rape since they were asking for it by having a sex-life. Marital rape is impossible; non-consensual incest is invisible and indeed legal. Respect for women increasingly involves limiting their choices, restricting them—often by force—and victim-blaming if they are assaulted while trying to live full lives, professionally and personally: including but not limited to freedom of movement, the liberty to choose their professions, go on vacations alone, go to a pub or late-night show, take walks at four in the morning if they so choose. The students in EFLU come from, and continue to inhabit this society, this hetero-normative rape-culture. Outside, and even inside, the campus this is what the students experience and what female students—not exclusively, but in far greater numbers—are subjected to.
What happened on the 31st is not an isolated incident and should not be treated as such. Nor should the response be to create an environment where female students are scared to take long walks at night, or visit their male friends, or indeed are forbidden from doing so. Today a number of students—quite a few of them male—rallied in support of the harassed complainant, and asked for non-restrictive measures to be taken by the administration and the GSCASH (among them the reconstitution of the latter statutory body, which has been defunct in EFLU for several months). This is an excellent step—and as a cynical veteran of EFLU protests and on-campus attempts at gender-equality and gender-justice, extremely reassuring to witness—but we ought not, must not, stop here.
[reproduced from a note on Facebook.]
Oh, also, news on the housing front. bee_muse and I have moved out of the hostel, into an off-campus flat. It's great to be able to spread out some after four years of cramping bedroom/study/kitchen into one tiny room. And not having to share a bathroom with forty-odd people is doing wonders for my mood.
I am looking back to other endings at this ending, and at other beginnings too. At the friends I have made over slow years, and at the friends I made too fast and the friends I did not work enough to keep and the friends who I cannot call friends anymore and have nothing else to call; and at the roads I have travelled and the places I have seen and the places I have turned my head away from; the sights I have see, have not seen, have seen through the sanitising lens of my camera. At a crossroads all roads call one closer.
I have been taking accounts of things, as one does at these times. Today I rediscovered the blog I used to write in undergrad, when such things were more popular. It was strange to read, like looking at a stranger's mind through familiar eyes. Depression changes you: with me it has ground me down, left me more patient and less easy to jump to exasperation, more exhausted. I am kinder to people now because I know how kind I have to be to myself at times, and how hard I find that emotion, how I snarl because I want to set my teeth in something and cannot. Depression has been a hand clamping shut the sharp maw of my mind. I can still eat, but slower, in smaller bites, and I am afraid that soon my stomach shall shrink. I am still angry but now I store up my rage and use it carefully; I don't shout at people any more, I don't write anymore, I keep quiet. I keep watch.
My sister is about to start college this year. It's a very strange thing to think of. Today I was reading all the things I wrote at seventeen, at eighteen, all the sentimental, half-formed poetry and fluid, easy prose that I used to write. It is easy to think that it was an easy life. Always summer, always alone [together], the fruit always ripe. But that's facile, a lie, and dismissive of that time. I had my first break-up that first semester and took two years to recover from it, I lost two friends to a misunderstanding and lost ground with a fair few others, I, never social, felt consistently lost in all the currents of a twenty-odd group, I co-ran a magazine for six months, I lost a year to dead languages and by the time I looked up everything was different. By the time undergrad ended I was claustrophobic, gasping for breath, desperate to get away. I'm nostalgic about JUDE, but so am I also about EFLU, and so can I also be about school. It's not the place, it's the time. I was seventeen when I started college, and now I am twenty-four, seven years and nearly three degrees richer, and my relationship with that half-remembered girl is one of pain. She was an angry young thing, very hurt and very brave, and I want to take her between my hands and soothe her. Stephen Fry famously wrote back to himself at sixteen, and I wish I could do that.
You will be happy. First know that. You will be happy for three years in JU, which you will feel is home the first time you walk in. You will read many books and learn many things. You will be taught King Arthur in the original and Beowulf, and Iliad by one of the best men you will ever meet. You will learn how to be friends with people, how to sit down on a patch of grass or a stone step and talk for hours about everything and nothing. The girl you love will break your heart and you will miss her like a wound, but you will be happy. You will have friends and books and coffee and ridiculous conversations and long walks that will end in you getting very decisively lost. You will get a camera and realise that photography is a sort of solace. Years later you will watch a film and recognise yourself in a scrap of behaviour and the knowledge that others, too, use a camera to create distance will come as a relief. You will be taught the ethics of photography by the man who will first teach you the Iliad, and Aristotle, and Plato, and then later the ethics of feudalism, and as he tells you that photography has to be an ethical practice, the girl sitting beside you will sneak a photograph of him surreptitiously on her phone. You shall write and run a magazine and watch films and read comics for a test and your sister will look resentful and your parents confused. You shall have fun studying for the first time in your life and you will have friends.
You will have friends you can drink with and watch the same film with till it becomes a ritual and you will fall in love with the actor and when he dies it will be the first time you grieve the passing of a celebrity. The first time you get drunk your mother will text to ask for directions so that your father can come pick you up and you will gloat about this to your friends forever as proof that your parents are incredibly cool. At twenty-two your mother will believe you when you tell her that you are still gay and will stop asking you about marriage. At a little less than twenty you will get blind drunk at the house of a girl you barely know and then wander around the streets at midnight on New Year's Eve and a boy you barely know will bring you home while you fight him and will never accept any of your apologies for your misbehaviour. At twenty you will realise that you no longer want to study English literature, even though it has been your dream since you were five, even though you have been shown vaster worlds and better treasures than you thought possible, even though you have had a window opened into a thousand new worlds. Your teachers will accuse you of not loving them anymore but they will grin at you while saying it and you will grin back, and at twenty you will go to a city you have never visited, to live among people whose language you do not know, and study something the name of which you barely know.
You will walk through a different set of gates and feel at home. A girl will smile at you and you will give her your heart. A girl will sit in your room at night, stubbornly on the floor, and you will decide all of a sudden that she is your very best friend, whom you have been awaiting so long. A man will put his hands on you in desire and you will dislike it and it will end in rueful smiles and he will flirt with you for a while and it will be nothing like when you were seven, when you were fifteen and it will unlock something in you. While you are still living at home you will read the first book where the hero falls in love with a boy who is a little like you, and later you will read a book where the hero is a woman just like you and you will smoke endlessly every time you go back to these books even though you try not to smoke too much. You will get drunk and try to send people away from fear that you might try to molest them, you will get drunk and ask your friends to stay near you, you will get drunk and other drunk people will have fights and try to cut themselves while you try to stop them. You will have bitter arguments with everyone, you will shout about injustice, you will gain new ways of looking at the world and lose the last of your prejudices.
You will regain the faith you thought you'd lost. You will regain confidence in your self after it has been dragged out of you, inch by inch. You will be disenfranchised all over again after three years of being a full citizen. A man you barely know will kill himself and you will be heartbroken because at least one of his reasons for demanding death has been your reason since you were thirteen, fourteen and knew that your desires were filthy. A woman will desire you, but you've had a handle on that for the last eight years, you smug brat, so I'm not sure why I'm mentioning that at all. You will make friends online, and one of them will be like the twin you used to dream and wish you had. You will make friends with a girl you knew in school and regret all the time you weren't friends. You will travel to out of the way towns and look upon what gets called "Indian culture" and find that what you always suspected is true: there are any number of semi-naked people of all genders having sex in history. You will travel for the third time to Darjeeling and read a paper about queer people that will be published: the film you will write about will prompt your first foray into Bollywood fandom, will help you make friends you haven't lost yet completely. You will learn to make friends casually, parcel out smaller fragments of your heart; you will find that you keep them longer than the wild friendships of school. You will go to Dilli and live with another couple and fail to meet your friends and they will all scold you for it and it will be the truest reaffirmation of friendship you've had in a while. There will be other reaffirmations. You have not grown secure in the thought of people's love for you, yet, but you're getting there.
You will be ill. The illness that made your mother grow apathetic and listless will sink its claws in you. There will be months when you lie in bed all day every day and do nothing and go nowhere. It will be a miracle that you finish your masters degree, but you will. Both of them. The friends you desperately longed for at five, ten, fifteen, are lurking in your future and they will save your academic career, your sanity, and very possibly your life. You will love them for it, but a great debt has the nature of fealty, and you will be faithful to their secrets and ways of thought, and when those you try to help yourself , because debts like this can never be paid back but only paid forward, when they will look at you with loyalty and you will feel your heart rend. You will find love lurking in strange places: eggs and pasta and tea and earrings and books and lyadh and adda in front of Worldview and the way a girl looks at you with her eyes dark in the evening and the way a girl looks at you with tendrils twining into her hair and the way a girl smokes cigarettes perched on your window with amber eyes and the way a man smiles at you and holds you close; and they will all be love and none of it will be romantic. Your friends are waiting for you in their future and in yours, and there is an yearning in their hearts that matches the yearning in yours. You will be friends with people whose language you do not speak and you will speak constantly to bridge that gap, to explore worlds that are strange and where the core of familiarity is a delusion dragging you forth.
You will be happy. You are happy, as this is being written. You are lying in bed in a little room with the detritus of your life all around you, and unwashed dishes and undone laundry and unfinished work all asking for attention, talking to a girl online and missing a girl who is in Dilli, and a girl who is in Bombay and a girl who is in Dilli and a girl who is in Pune and a girl who is in Dilli and a girl who is in Bhutan and a girl who is in Dilli and a girl who is in Kozhikode and a girl who is in Dilli. You will take up embroidery again and drop it. You will read every book you can lay your hands on, and that, too, will preserve your sanity. You will take endless photographs and you will learn how to buy vegetables, and you will learn how to cook and realise that it doesn't have to make you feminine it just has to feed you. You will learn that it is fine to be feminine and that looking good in pink isn't something to be ashamed of. You will learn that you like cooking and that you can never be made to take care of yourself even when you get good at taking care of other people. You will learn how to talk to your parents as an adult and how to talk to your sister like she's human, you will learn that you like the girl she's growing up to be and while this is being written she's prepping for college like you are now.
You will be happy. First know that. Only know that. You will be loved and trusted and depended upon, and you will be happy. You are loved and trusted and depended upon, but the knowledge is yet to come to you; you will know it when you can bear the weight of it. For now, know only that you will be happy.
It is very strange to read posts made by people you lost contact with ages ago and realise that even when you were friends, when you hung out with them every day or every week, when you lived on the same campus or in the same building, you barely knew them. That you didn’t know the stories within them, even when they knew everything about you. There’s this quote I’m too lazy to chase down, I think Gaiman’s, where he talks about how every person we meet, no matter how boring we find them, has unimaginable worlds inside them.
I don’t find most people boring, if anything I find them more than a little overwhelmingly interesting. I guess I’m one of the boring people; some days it doesn’t feel as though I have any worlds within me, just an amorphous grey substance that’s drowning me from the inside out. The strength in people astonishes me. Tires me. I can hardly bear to hear about their lives, how they have the energy and perseverance to live them escapes me. I suppose the answer to that is there’s rarely a choice.
Mostly I want to sit down with people and drink tea and talk. This last week has been so good. But people are also overwhelming, and this last week has also been excellent because I’ve had a chance to go away from people.
I don’t have many friends. I’ve been in the process of losing one for over a year and I suspect tonight the deed’s done. I feel nothing about it, though we’ve known each other for a decade and a half, and for a third of that time we were very close. I have always been bad at the work of friendship, and always the labour involved to me outweighs the benefits. So I forget to email my friends oftener than once every few months, and never call them, and then feel momentarily sad when I see how close they are to each other, or to people I’ve never met.
That passes (so may this). My overwhelming emotion is curiosity. I don’t care how people feel, or more correctly I don’t care how they feel about me, but I do want to know what they’re doing now and what they were doing while I knew them well and what they’ve been doing in the intervening years or months. If I love them, I only want to know it more urgently. I ought to have been a cat. I do a mean lolcat voice.
I don’t know how to express affection. I have this terror of making a nuisance of myself by asking too much, too many times. I have this terror of having to commit to any faction of an argument. I like very few people very much, and I know fewer very well. I should look up the relevant LotR excerpt. Ah, here we go, thank you wiki.
“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
But sometimes, late at night and near dawn, missing the friends I never tried to keep, I wish I did.
Mudasir Kamran was taken to the police-station on Friday. He died on Saturday. There was a candle-light march on Sunday. Classes were stopped on Monday. On Tuesday. On Wednesday. On Thursday we had an open forum; in the evening the V.C finally deigned to speak to protesting students, and then ran away mid-negotiation left escorted by security through the back-door. On Friday she announced that there would be a null semester from Monday, should classes not begin. We have never heard of this option before, though classes have been suspended earlier for longer periods and for other reasons; but it does neatly make the issue academic. To disrupt classes has never been the goal of this protest, and prior to the V.C's Great Escape we had hoped to be in class ourselves from Friday; instead we find ourselves villainised.
On Monday we might have class. There will be police on campus. Some students have petitioned for class, so I hope they will be happy. We have been told that we are making it a Muslim issue, a Kashmiri issue. Mudasir was a Kashmiri Muslim, but apparently to bring out these things is an act of indiscipline and indecency. (We will not go into the homosexuality issue, and one hopes that the mental disorder issue does not need to be discussed.)
The member of faculty implicated in these things is to be investigated by a committee yet to be constituted; he has not been suspended, but since he is on leave our V.C opines that that need not happen. Proctorial duties have been (unofficially) handed on to another faculty member.
On Monday there will be class. Libraries will be open. The 'net lab. will be accessible. Everything will return to normal. Oh, and a boy is dead by his own hand, who the administration handed over to the police as their first reaction upon hearing that he was physically violent towards a friend, without investigating the matter, without reprimanding the student, or offering him counselling.
But on Monday there will be classes.
There's a fair bit of literature being produced about this by the protestors, but most of it is on FB. So, here's one that isn't: http://kafila.org/2013/03/05/on-the-