Indian Social Justice (EXPLICIT)

They scream

They yell

But no one gives a fuck.

They defend

They prove

Yet, no one gives a fuck.

They cry

They starve.

Nope. Still no fuck given.

Too many daily injustices

A million too many around.

So, no. Sorry; we just won’t give a fuck.

-Ramona Arena, 20th September 2015.

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Hello, with no Goodbye.

There he was, this little ball,

With Mother cloaked in black.

Tiny legs trying,

But the pace of city traffic,

Kept holding him back.

The light shone STOP,

But people here are crazy,

Rules are for fools,

To hit the brakes,

They’re lazy.

So mother took no risk,

Alert and alarmed,

With no time to waste,

She stopped,

Scooped him into her arms.

She hurried across the road,

His head bobbed up and down,

He noticed me observing,

He smiled;

Waving his hand around.

My heart felt a rush of warmth,

Returning the smile and wave,

Back on the ground,

He turned around,

But my rick left in a haste.

-Ramona Arena, 15th September 2015.

Who’s To Blame

We sit here,

We sit here

Terrified.

With hands tied,

Seeing her scream,

Watching him lie,

Time and again.

Everyday.

Your are slapped,

With the pain,

As you drive, as you walk;

On your wall, its the same.

You wanna help,

You wanna try,

You’d give

Whatever it takes.

But they won’t let you,

Cuz they got nothin to gain.

So they’ll hunt you down,

Arrest you, threaten your life,

Torture your family,

Rape your women and child.

Let you bleed real slow,

Up until you’re dry.

But you’re okay with it all,

Cuz this is destined life.

When will you wake up you fool?

When will you have enough?

Their fancy cars go by,

You stand and breathe their dust.

This is a crime.

This is a shame.

This is outrageous.

But will we change?

This ain’t no culture.

This ain’t faith.

Not tradition.

Or a religious game.

Its your life,

Its your right,

Take away,

The kryptonite

They’re holding onto

with fists clamped so tight.

Democracy is a joke,

When you’re afraid to smile.

This ‘freedom’ is the lullaby,

That makes them sleep in peace each night.

Where shall I point my finger?

‘Congratulations!! It’s a perfectly normal and healthy baby girl!!’
Most people would be thrilled to hear that. But then again many would consider that to be a disappointment, a burden, a result of bad karma, a tragedy or a reason to get pregnant again, hoping this time the Gods’ won’t curse you with another girl child.
I’m not here to judge, I’m just thinking out loud and trying to understand – why for generations, a girl, a woman has been seen as an inconvenience, not just by men but by women too. So this time, I’m going to place the ball in your court and ask you 6 questions. Take your time and think about it. I would love to hear what all of you – male, female, young, old etc have to say. And of course I know I am generalizing here – there are exceptions, but we’re looking at the larger picture.
*Please don’t reply with it’s our culture/tradition/religion; unless you have actually read up on your culture and can send me facts to back up your statement. Facts don’t include what your parents, teachers, guru babas said.
1.     Why is it expected that a good wife will cook, clean, look after the house, bear children, attend to them, to her husband, his family and tend to every need each of them may have and go to work whilst a good husband will go to work – all else is beneath him?
2.     Why is this ‘good’ wife an even better one if she quietly bears the brunt of his stress – be it emotionally, sexually, physically or mentally?
3.     Why is a single woman frowned upon and called a slut if she enjoys sex, but a single man is patted on his back and called a stud if he does the same?
4.     Why is it so hard for single, independent women to find apartments to rent whilst if there are men, it’s no problem at all?
5.     Why is she a bad influence, not a fit candidate to take home to ‘mother’, if she wears clothes that show skin, lives her life her way, has lots of male friends, tattoos, parties, smokes and drinks?
6.     Why is she too much to handle if she isn’t afraid to stand up for and be herself? Why is her opinion not worthy of being voiced?
I know most urban women will relate to at least one of these questions. We have all experienced these situations directly, seen it second hand within families, amongst friends and with house-help too. I know a lot of men who seem very liberal and open minded but when it comes to their own wives, sisters or daughters, something kicks in and everything that was acceptable suddenly isn’t.
If you could help me understand why we as a society (again not just men) discriminate against our own, I would be able to find peace and make some sense out of what we are doing to ourselves. It’s easy to point fingers, bash, blame everyone and the government!
But before I choose sides in a seemingly never ending blame game, I just want to ask –
How many of you mothers have knowingly defended the wrongs of your sons, husbands and fathers; how many of you have oppressed your daughters; secretly favored your son over your daughter – yet she is the one you expect to look after you in your old age; taken abuse silently – verbal or physical; judged other women based on their appearances?
How many of you women have thought it was okay for your mothers to behave this way? And let it continue?
How many of you men have treated women badly even in the smallest way? Accepted parents/ in laws hitting their grown daughters? Thought certain women need to be taught lessons? Told a woman how to behave/dress? Asked for dowry? Expect her to do all the housework? Watched women get teased, tormented, harassed in public and just walked away minding your own business?
I state again, I am not judging or condemning anyone here. But if there is an inner voice that (despite the obvious external discomfort) identifies with an ‘I have’ to even one of these questions, I think it’s time that we remember to look deep within each of ourselves, before pointing fingers outwardly.
There is no denying – A change must begin.  But it only begins within – regardless of religion, education, social standing, wealth and gender.

Happy Diwali …

Another day begins in Mumbai. I have much too much going on. In my life, in my heart, in my head, with work etc. We all do I guess. As Sapna, Harrish and I make our way to a place I’ve never even heard of in my city, our rickshaw explodes with political talk, India, the possibility vs the reality of change and solutions. All that chattering comes to a halt as we reach our destination and find a smiling Dipesh awaiting us.

The four of us started walking through the chawl. This place has Muslims and Hindus living together in peace side by side. I started looking around and it took me back to a different life, in a different era. Kids playing together outside, every huts doors wide open, roosters running around, everyone keeping the area clean and plain happy faces all around. I dressed very simply as I did not want to stand out or seem different, but I guess all of us just didn’t look like we were from there, so the novelty factor got everyones attention as we passed them by. Smiling eyes peeked from windows, happy shop keepers waved and excited children led us to the exact place we had to go to. Just then I saw a coal iron – it was so beautiful. I asked if I could take a picture, the lady who was ironing was more than happy to let me and posed even with a big smile. The other girls around her chuckled and hid behind the curtain. Once I finished clicking, they were all more than eager to speak to me and tell me how this is the best iron for clothes.

We then proceeded to ‘The HIJRA Community Centre’ at Char Chowghi. We were welcomed by Gauri Sawant, a woman who is witty, charming, hilarious, motivated, inspiring, strong and she shed so much light upon us. Appropriate considering it’s Diwali! We greeted the Guru Ma, sat on the floor with a few more women and the talks started. We were offered so much to eat and drink, it was heart warming. Initially we politely declined. We were asked to answer with a simple yes or no. Gauri asked ‘If I came to your house would you accept me not even having a glass of water or tea? Would you let me leave just like that?’ Our ‘buts’ started and she thundered ‘just answer with a yes or a no – it’s that simple’. We smiled and indulged in their hospitality. Growing up in India, having a ‘proper’ education, it’s amazing how we are still so unaware of our own people and their ways of life.

There is a difference between a transgender and a Hijra. A Hijra is a part of a community – like a sufi Community or Parsi community. No one just becomes a Hijra just like that. They have Guru Ma’s, they are each others solace, friends and family. If you see one in a sari or dressed as a woman, refer to her as she – not he, not it. Did you know they have to go through 3 years of psychological consultation and evaluation to be able to get permission to have the operation? Do you know they save a lot of their own hard earned money just to be able to have that operation? I’m sure you cannot imagine the pain of being trapped somewhere (in their case in a mans’ body) when all you want to do is get out. I can fully understand them, I’ve been through that and it’s not a fun feeling – you feel as if you’re trapped in the tiniest jail cell, its walls are constantly drawing closer to you, you cannot breathe, you’re choking, suffocating, screaming and yet all people around you do is laugh, instead of lending you a hand.

They are often abandoned by their families, shunned and mocked by society, raped, disrespected and considered unworthy of love. They are ridiculed for being true to themselves – here’s my question, how many of us actually have the guts to see who we truly are, be who we want to be and not care about how difficult life will be and how much pain it will cause one mentally, emotionally and physically? We are conditioned by society and so if something or someone is different to societys’ warped concept of normal, they are termed weird, crazy, mentally ill, f*cked up etc. Why do we fear individuality? Why do we fear things and people that are different? A lot of this can also be linked to procreation and Lord Brahma. I won’t delve deeper into this, but reading and understanding Hindu Mythology and Indian history during the Mughal Empire will explain a lot and prove that all of this is and has been a part of our ‘culture’.

These ladies were so polite, respectful, fluent in English, well educated and knowledgable about current affairs and laws. Despite everything they have gone through and still go through, they stood tall, smiled constantly and cracked us up as they spoke. They want to be accepted but aren’t because of irrational fears, preconceived notions that are all man made. Sure, there are a few rotten apples, but don’t we all have them in every community, in every family? That doesn’t mean we judge them for it. And who the hell are we to judge anyway? What gives us the right? Our own self-made, self-superiority complexes?? I’ll be honest, I don’t like it when they touch me and threaten to curse me if I don’t give them money, but then again how are they supposed to feed themselves, get medication etc? Who looks after them except their community? We give beggars, old and handicapped people money, but nothing to them because they are a nuisance. Why this discrimination? How often have you said/heard ‘Oh shit, quickly roll up the windows, the Hijras are coming. We’ll be safe behind the glass and if we turn up the music we won’t hear their curses..’ I’d just like to say, I’ve also met many Hijras that I’ve not paid, only spoken to nicely or smiled at and they’ve left me with a blessing. One of them even paid for my friends rickshaw fare when she fell short of cash.

It takes guts to commit to being a member of the Hijra family. Don’t just think of the physical part. That’s being narrow minded. Look at the commitment to a lifetime filled with hardship, discrimination, hate and injustice and still rising above it all, standing tall with a big heart and open smile. They have seen more life than most of us. They are souls of awareness. They have nothing more to lose and in that, they have their freedom and happiness. Something all of us crave, hardly any will achieve.

It was time to leave; we clicked pictures, got blessed by the Guru Ma and as they walked us out till the rickshaws, all I felt was an overwhelming sense of inspiration and strength. We were meant to make theirs a Happy Diwali,  instead they showered us with immense love and happiness, leaving us with good, positive and motivating energy.

We headed towards an 85 year old ladys’ home next. Dipesh met her at his doctor. He’s been helping her out whenever possible, bringing her clean sheets, sorting out her meals, her walking stick, cable connection etc. She’s lonely, has no one to talk to, no family or friends left, her daughters have abandoned her and therefore is left with hurt, anger and her memories of a painful past. We picked up some juice, chocolate and oats for her.

Vatsala spoke in Marathi. Each time she spoke of her past we changed the topic, made up stories, each of us told her what we do for a living. She told Sapna to cut her hair the next time and made me sing for her. I knew just one Marathi song… just 2 lines of it. Everyone encouraged me to go for it regardless. Her face lit up and she sang with me. And then we sang it again, this time everyone joined in. She ate chocolate, drank juice which she refused to do before. She told us it felt nice to have us here, that when she’s alone she only has memories, having Krishna (the only God she has ever believed in and calls Dipesh that) and his friends around keeps her mind occupied. When we walked in, she spoke of how much she wanted to die. As we left, she asked when we were coming back and where we could go to the next time, so she has a change of scene.

I couldn’t get myself to write about this yesterday because it was so heavy, there was so much to just take in and absorb… I’m still reeling. Moments like these, days like these put life and my ‘issues’ into perspective. I have so much to be grateful for, how can I have the audacity to be sad, upset, crib and whine about my life?

We are all human beings at the end of the day. Not Hindu, Not Muslim, Not Jew, Not Christian, Not Hijra, Not Gay, Not Lesbian, Not Indian, Not Pakistani, Not Rich, Not Poor. None of these stupid religious and political divisions!!!! We are all one. We are all love. We are all from the same Source! We will all be reduced to ash and bones.

I leave you with something Gauri said that just hit me, touched me and will forever stay in my heart. She said it in Hindi, but I’ll translate it into English. ‘No matter how high up and successfully the kite may be flying in the air, fact is the thread and it’s reel are always on the ground, right? And that’s where it should stay, for we all know what happens to the kite once that thread gets cut. And that is life… you never know when the thread may get cut.’

Happy Diwali everyone… Stay enlightened and spread the light.


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The lady with the coal iron.


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The signboard above, where the Guru Ma (in picture) lives.


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Vatsala.


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Much beauty exists, much love exists. It’s a shame we live with eyes tight shut.


Happy Independance Day India?

Independence from rape,
Independence from gender bias,
Independence from female foeticide,
Independence from farmer suicides,
Independence from acid attacks,
Independence from environmental abuse,
Independence from illiteracy,
Independence from poverty,
Independence from racial hatred & religious bias,
Independence from bad roads & potholes,
Independence from corrupt leaders,
Independence from fearing freedom of speech,
Independence from bribery,
Independence from poaching,
Independence from lies, schemes and scams…

Oh India,

You truly are beautiful, your people have the sweetest smiles, warmest hearts… You have all the riches the world envies, breathtaking nature, heritage, culture, monuments, spirituality, arts, music, awe-inspiring diversity, colours, flavours…

Let us love our nation & give her, her forests, oceans, animals and each other the long overdue respect we deserve…

Lets support and give those who died for our Independence and those that serve us by risking their lives everyday for our safety, our borders, our cities the respect they deserve.

Lets be truly Independent, so we can each proudly say Bharat Mata ki Jai!!!

©RAMONA ARENA 2013

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly…

Hello India,


I write and speak straight from my heart. I am no one, just an ordinary citizen writing to you… my fellow citizens – old, young, rich, poor, Hindu, Musilim, Jew, Brahmin, Dalit whatever… I hope I can touch you and make you believe in everything I feel and believe.


I write this from a purely human and emotional space after going through, seeing and hearing different stories from so many girlfriends of mine about abuse, threats, violence and teasing. It leaves me shocked, numb, upset, angry and in fear. Fear that it could just as easily have been me. So bear with me.


Yes, India has a corrupt government, the police, municipal corporations are understaffed, not motivated and justice – it may come but it’ll take at least a decade thanks to the backlog. So yes, India has problems. Big, major, serious problems. But then again, which country doesn’t? Who in the world doesn’t have problems?


I’m not justifying it or supporting it. Thing is, what are YOU – in your capacity – as a citizen of a country with so many problems doing about these problems? It’s easy to feel like your hands are tied. I’ve felt like that a million times. I often think of how tedious a process it will be to clean and fix things, for some sort of change and order to come about – and I confess I sometimes feel like saying forget it, let me just get the hell out of here so I don’t need to deal with this anymore. No one cares, if they want to rot, let them. That maybe its best I just keep living in my own little bubble to have some peace. But then again, I can’t. It is my country. If I want a change, I have to be the change. In my own way, in my own capacity. And it will take time.


If we look at the all the negatives and then also balance things out and look at the positives, we will find there are TONS! So many amazing selfless people, giving up their careers to help others, others volunteering and helping. I have been fortunate enough to meet just a handful. 


I recently met Sonal from Magic Bus India. What a lovely lady. Once heading Channel V, she’s now given up her career to help our children. Her argument is we have the infrastructure in our country, we have laws but no one bothers to know what they are, how we can improve things, what our basic rights are even! In this respect, she has opened my eyes for which I am truly grateful.


Magic Bus has been doing great work – read up on them. See how they are using sports to teach children who do not come from posh backgrounds about gender sensitivity, treating women as equals, manners, politeness, hygiene etc. Its amazing! Read about Mathew Spacie. A foreigner doing SO much wonderful work – again giving up his job for Indias’ children, Indias’ future, Indias’ development as a ‘whole society’. If you want to go play football or whatever with kids and brighten their day, see how they are taught about life through sports just go to any one of their 12 centres across India. (http://www.magicbus.org)


Apoorva from No Nasties is another amazing soul. The farmer suicides in Maharashtra bothered him so much, he quit his job and started an organization that makes Tshirts custom made that everyone – you, me, every company can customize prints for. I can personally vouch for the quality, color and feel of these Tshirts. If you can’t be activley involved , go buy a Tshirt from them. Sacrifice a coffee with your friends and just do it!! (www.nonasties.in)


There’s Muktangan who are trying to change the way children are educated in government schools. Amazing selfless people devoting their time and skills to help children and parents learn and grow. If you sing, play an instrument, paint or have a skill, just go to one of their schools and spend 2 hours there showing it off and inspiring their kids. (http://www.muktanganedu.org/www/)


There a million other stories, people and organisations that are doing a lot of good. But they need to be backed. They need our support.


The biggest problem in our country is education. The lack of it and the way in which it is given. Everyone knows the 2 biggest influences in our country are Bollywood and Cricket.


So when one is in a powerful position to influence others & can make a difference on a larger scale, one HAS to be nothing less than responsible. It is disappointing to see the kind of messages sent out – maybe not directly by them, but via them as at the end of the day, it is their names that are on the project. I’m referring to the outcry about RaginiMMS2 and its official FB page.


I reacted and was most upset when I first saw it too. But I’ve had time to think about it – I’m guessing being as busy as she is, Ms. Kapoor has a marketing team that has been hired to take care of the content. I’m sure Ms. Kapoor must not be aware of the things being written on the page by her marketing team, because as a woman, a citizen and a human, I refuse to believe that she could allow something like this to be written. Especially at a time where a verdict is the topic of discussion for a horrific sexual crime and the Mahalaxmi gang rape amongst others is still fresh in our minds. Besides, there’s no denying she is an intelligent, smart, educated and well brought up person from a good home.


The text, seems to be encouraging men to ‘tease her’ ‘being a little flirty won’t hurt’ and that ‘a dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste. So, use it’. THAT is what is atrocious! The pictures are fine, lingerie is fine and being sexy, feeling sexy is all great. I have no issues with pornography even.


Theres another pic on www.facebook.com/RanginiMMS2Official that says ‘Fear is the new sexy’. 


NO!!!!!!! Nothing about fear is sexy! And yes its a horror film and a sexy film but you cannot combine the two to create tag lines like these!!! We know the demographic that is being targeted with these pictures & accompanying texts – they will think its fun and cool to instil fear in a woman – that women want it!! We do NOT! 


We do NOT want men to use their dirty minds – hasn’t every woman suffered enough for that? 


Is it not possible to have tag lines that are separate, instead of trying to use fear and sexy together? For example: ‘Sexy has a whole new meaning’ for one and ‘Get ready to scream’ for another etc. I’m not a copy person but you get the gist.


So please Ms. Kapoor, there are countless selfless souls who have given up careers, and lives to put in hours of hard work for education, awareness & gender sensitivity. Without keeping a check on what your team is doing, there is a very serious and horrid message reaching the lesser educated people, endangering the lives and safety of even more women. And with the reach and power of Bollywood, this message just erases all of the hard work and sacrifice these amazing souls have made and keep making.


Change starts with each one of us. You, me, mother, father, brother sister, aunt, uncle, friend, lover, child. Let us all be responsible, a little more alert, a little more attentive to the things we say or do. We live in a land where most people aren’t taught, they don’t know better and are easily influenced (Eg: Asaram). We can help and as educated citizens of this beautiful land, it is our responsibility to reach out & help each other in the smallest possible way. 


Let us all take baby steps… all of us together. For Indias’ sake, for our sake. Anything, in any capacity is a start. I have faith and I love my country.


Thank you for reading this, I know it was a loooong one.


R xoxo

12th September 2013, Mumbai.