Saturday, December 29, 2012

A girl is raped, a girl dies,

the old year draws to a close.  And the hotels, bars and restaurants anticipate the moolah from ‘packed to the rafters’ New Year’s bashes.  And people will party till they stumble home in a blurry haze of booze and bonhomie. And the girl will be a topic of conversation, but the party will still go on.  And the roads will be thronged by drunken hooligans while the police will sarcastically advise that women should stay home or be prepared to be groped.  Keeping the streets free and safe is not an option.  Not on New Year’s Eve; not on any other night or day.   

And, before too long, the girl will become a memory. Until another girl or woman is raped.  Because life goes on regardless. Because it is not our mother, sister, daughter. Because such 'news' begets a transient attention span. Because one horror replaces another in quick succession.  Because we have abjured our values so that we no longer see the image and likeness of God in creation.

Because rape is just another silent scream.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Knee Jerk!

How quickly we react, how easily we see in black and white only, and how easily we pass judgment. But is it really that simple? I’m going out on a limb here with what would be considered as outrageous by practically everyone who has lapped up the media reports that have appeared over the past two weeks.

Let’s take the first.  A prank call, a lot of smug laughter, some chaffing, some backslapping (for those that pulled it off) and wide media coverage.  At that point it was still a prank to top all pranks! And then the laughter turned to censure. Just like that.  What an awful thing to do! How irresponsible! The pranksters are now considered criminals.  Irresponsible, certainly. But, criminal?

Let’s look at the picture a little more closely.  Two people impersonate public figures and make a prank call.  They do not know who will take the call and they probably expect to be sent off with the proverbial flea in the ear.  The nurse on duty makes an error of judgment, and the prank goes viral.  The unintended ‘victim’ becomes a joke.  Suicide follows. 

Now look at a mother who has to choose between remaining a national joke for probably a very long while (certainly among colleagues and friends) and being there for two children whom she is raising and loves very much.  Hard choice?  Probably, but only if you are already close to the edge.  A nurse’s life is not easy: graveyard shifts, the responsibility for life, taking tough calls, dealing with extreme illness, dealing with death. And, in this particular case, a duty that allowed a mother to connect with family only once in the week: the kind of life that would take its toll on the strongest of persons, physically, mentally and emotionally.  So, was the prank the cause of suicide? Or was it the last straw? Think about it. Then, whom would you hold responsible? 

Soon, the headlines change dramatically. We hear about the massacre of the innocents.  The one thing that should be a certainty is that children should always be safe: at home, in school, on the playground – everywhere. A while ago I read a novel titled ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ which has so many parallels that, in hindsight, it is almost predictive in its content: an exclusive affluent environment, a child that is different and who prefers to be excluded, the murder of a parent (and a sibling) and the massacre of a class in a truly gruesome way.  

So where lie the answers? Because, surely, there are questions that need to be addressed; issues that need to be confronted and assurances obtained that such an abomination will not happen again. 

Could we find it possible to look at the perpetrator as a victim? Or is it just too convenient to write him off as a psycho – someone monstrously evil?
Look again at the child who was different.  A broken family (the school had a Psychiatrist that had to help children with issues ‘that they were unprepared to handle’ and these were children in the age group 5 – 10!); a father who left; a mother who seems to be the tough cop’s daughter and who taught her boys how to handle a gun (the choice of guns sounds more like a male statement than an option for security) and there is nothing more powerful than the feel of a gun in the hand – alone you are vulnerable, with a gun you are invincible; a closed neighbourhood that sent out a message that they were perfect in an imperfect world.  

To me, this is the story not of individuals but of a society that demands more – much more – in terms of who you should be, what you should deliver and the image you have to maintain.  It is the story not of individual crime but of collective error. We need to turn the mirror on ourselves and face the truth.  We need to retrace our steps and find the wrong turns. We need to ask ourselves the tough questions and accept the tougher answers.

When it comes to being as we believe God meant us to be, we need to stand tall and call the shots.  Without using a gun.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


It should have been a happy recall of those bouffant times, when we teased and sprayed our hair into impossible ‘beehives’ to stay in fashion, until brittle hair and threatening baldness made us realise that natural fall and bounce was the right way to go.  Instead, it was an evening of muffed lines, flat voices, a mike system that copped out more than once and a storyline that was robbed of its punch because of all that.  ‘Hairspray’, the musical, may not be among the better known or as sing-a-long as the Lloyd-Weber offerings, but it does have catchy tunes and chirpy lyrics.  Despite being set in the sixties, it still has a young flavour and the message is still valid.  Though black/white segregation is mostly a thing of the past, discrimination is not, and even ‘impossible’ dreams can be realised. 

After two hours, my immediate reaction was ‘what a waste of an evening!’ And then I overheard the director and teachers telling the children how well they had performed and there were congratulations offered all round. That’s when I did a reality check.

Here were school kids who had never ever done something like this: acting in a Musical and essaying parts that were as alien to them as the Man in the Moon. Okay, so they did stumble at times, but the one thing that came through was their one hundred percent commitment to the performance and their total enjoyment – they were onstage, in the moment and lovin’ it! And every child in the school had their spot in the limelight.  How cool was that?

Those schoolchildren may never ever sing or dance onstage again (or they may – who knows?), but they will carry the joy of this moment with them for the rest of their lives and probably hand it down to a future generation.

So, what’s more important: a flawless, professional performance or the happiest school time memory?