“People tend to forget their duties, but remember their rights.” - Indira Gandhi Usually I comb through daily news items, share what’s interesting to me and then pay it no mind until the next round of perusing. Sometimes a piece will jolt me, nearly make me spit out my morning tea. A Guardian feature did just that a few days ago. It set me on fire. A controlled bonfire at first. An incendiary headline can do it. ‘if girls look sexy, boys will rape.’ Is this what Indian men really believe?  To answer the obvious, yes. A journalist rounded up a sample of Indian men in Baga, Goa and interviewed them about their ideas and impressions of the fairer sex, to explain why the hell women in India keep being beaten and assaulted. All eyes are on India now –scrutinizing a country that reportedly has some fucked up ideas on gender relations. There was the beating and gang rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a 23 year-old medical student. Reports say she was with her boyfriend (or male companion, as some news agencies have called him), on a bus in New Delhi traveling home from the cinema when they were attacked by six men. That was December 16th, 2012. She died a few weeks later from her injuries. By January 2013, two new rape cases were being investigated. The first, a gang rape in Punjab, a north-western state. The second, a woman who disembarked a train in Bihar (incidentally, a very conservative state) was attacked in a remote area.
“It is better to fail at your own dharma than to succeed at the dharma of another.”– Stephen Cope The canal is sparse today. I’m alone. I sit on a groove in the grass, thinking that my sit bones carved it, creating this space to dangle my feet. For once the sky is pale blue, instead of tinged with smoky grey and I tilt my chin to capture a warm kiss from the sun. I made mistakes. Pamplona was one. It wasn’t about conquering fear or proving a point, it was about meeting a man there. When you think it’s something, to be turned into something else. To walk away and be unloved once again. Then know he was never meant to. All along – a mess. A soft pink lotus skims the water, beckoning me to poke a foot in and touch its petals, tickling the sensitive area between my first and second toe. I exhale a laugh. It will bobble and weave, as though giggling along with me.
Two weeks ago I took part in the Lantern Festival here in Wuxi. Whoopie! Celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the lunisolar calendar, the Chinese take a brief pause in their packed lives to gather, eat, and set the night ablaze with lanterns. I pestered my friends to join me at a Xihui Park in Wuxi, at the crest of Huishan Mountain. The festival’s origins are as multi-layered as Spring Festival, with mythology tightly woven in the cloth of a crimson lantern. Some myths say the festival was meant to culminate with the first full moon of the lunisolar year, others speak of the Jade Emperor’s anger at villagers who killed his favorite animal, a crane. The Emperor planned to destroy the village with hellfire, when a wise, elderly man (why is it always an old guy?) counseled the village to set off firecrackers and light the entire village with lanterns to make it appear as though it was already in flames. This ruse worked, saving the village. Another one I like is the association to Taoism. The Taoist god for good fortune is Tianguan and ironically, his birthday falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month. To appease and please, devotees coordinate various activities to bring good fortune. Either way, I got my fill of lanterns, lanterns, lanterns!