1983. Me in class 2. Dad and me. Off to meet mom. Three legs to the journey – Shahjahanpur to Lucknow, Lucknow to Gonda and Gonda to Siddharthanagar (then called Naugarh). We in the middle, Gonda station (or was it Lucknow?). At a puri sabzi stall on the platform. Both eating.
And suddenly, a pack of dogs, 3-4 of them come sniffing (yes, dogs roamed railway stations back then, both Lucknow and Gonda were big stations, that notwithstanding). I cry to Dad. SOS. “Papa, kutte.” Something like that.
He keeps eating. No response. I rush from one side of his leg to the other. I try to hide behind him but the dogs come from the other side. I thought he hadn’t heard. So, I cry out louder. He still doesn’t listen. And it dawns. He is listening. Just not doing anything.
I, scared for my life, scurried here and there, around his legs, holding on to his pants, trying to save myself and my puri sabzi from the dogs. That moment stayed. I don’t remember how I managed to ward them off. Infact, I am sure I didn’t do that – there was no cinematic moment where the hidden tiger in me eventually woke up and roared. Most likely, he eventually stepped in and shooed them away. I know this because I continued fearing the dogs till much later and that combativeness didn’t sprout in me for a long time. That’s not the point.
But that moment – of me frantically crying for help, doing all my little hands and legs could do to save myself and my dad, standing next to me just eating his stuff – unperturbed, nonchalant, chilled out – that never left me.
First reaction was – this is unfair. You are tall, they can’t reach you. And you expect your level of ‘bravery’ from me? The beasts will chomp on my face in just a while.
But even at that tender age, even with that initial resentment (how could you just leave me to fight the dogs on my own?), and even with my continued fear of dogs – it felt good. That he trusted me to be able to fight my own fight.
We never talked about it. Am sure he doesn’t even remember it. I know for sure he never studied psychology books on parenting. But it impacted me deeply. He trusted me to fight my own battles. Howsoever little I was. That somehow got embedded deep within. This when the money shot – “Come dogs, me the little warrior will kick your lily asses now” – never happened.
He trusted me. He thought I could fight and beat those dogs. I couldn’t, but that didn’t matter. He felt I could.
It was instinctive for him, but it was too fucking smart. Guess the best form of protecting – no matter who it is. Step back. Let them go out in the world. Let them explore. Make mistakes. Mess with danger. Just be within range. Step in only when the shit really hits the fan.
Circa 1983. Me and Dad. Me in class 2. Shahjahanpur. DM Colony. Quarter no.81.
He would get up early everyday and go out running. He would take me along, a kilometer away was a college ground where he would complete a couple of rounds and then we would walk around the city and reach home from the other side. A railway line which went very close to our place, crossed the road midway, So, in the entire morning walk routine, we would cross that railway line twice. Imagine a straight line cutting a circle midway.
So, we are at the far end, where the railway line crosses the road. A long goods train, approaching fast. And a dog on the tracks. The train hoots, the dog busy eating. Doesn’t listen. The train resigns. The dog has to die.
We are on the other track some 30 meters away from the train. The train chugs along, the dog doesn’t hear it and in a minute, the train is over him. Over. The dog, smarter than I thought, lies low, in between the rails, between the marauding iron wheels of the train. I smile. The bugger will live. Coaches after coaches of the train pass over the dog. And he lies still, between the wheels. And then, he panics. Something stirs in him. Perhaps the long time the train has been over him gets to him. He moves on his legs and tries to creep out across one side. And, the next approaching wheel severs its head. Sadder still, it was the last coach. The gloom haunted me for days.
We came back home. But the incident didn’t leave me. Not the grotesque sight of a severed dog head. But that the incident had something more to it. The dog had almost survived the calamity. A fast approaching train was certain death. And he had averted that. And then he panicked. Didn’t keep the faith. Thought he had to do something. Messing with a working system trying to better it – Taleb would be angry.
But we all do that. Well intentioned interventions that destroy fill the history pages. Why do we lose faith midway? Why do we feel the need to do something? Anything. Kuch karna hai. Perhaps the lure of instantaneous results. Or the desire to control. Or perhaps the chaotic nature of the world where we flail dealing with the uncertainty.
The dog didn’t have to die. He had survived 19 out of 20 coaches.
Strategy – one word that fascinates everyone ranging from Chanakya to Amit Shah to McKinsey suits to everyone with a full belly and enough intellectual pretensions.
Confession – I too have been much enamoured by it, but have always struggled at articulating what strategy is. For the longest time, it lay in the, ‘I know it but can’t express it,’ zone which essentially is bullshit. I firmly believe the genius who said – if you cant explain it to a kid, you dont know it yet.
And then, it happened. Today morning. Suddenly the brainwave. And I feel I can explain what is strategy and what is tactics to a kid now. So, bring out the inner kid and here we are:
First check out this video:
Yes, the one, all of the 90’s kids would have seen hundred times and would have shown the younger ones as a sample of the cool things that existed back then.
Yes, you’ve watched it but pls do it again. Carefully. Just 7 minutes. For a lesson that takes people years (took me almost a decade!).
Now, see how Didi tackles mission ‘Mangoes from the tree’. Jugat lagani hogi. Yeh wali jugat.
So, this jugat is the strategy. Enough said. A five year old will understand.
And tactics? That’s easy now. The actions, the steps. Here we go.
So, strategy is the jugat and tactics is what you do to implement the jugat.
And now, as the great Sun Tzu said, “Tactics before strategy is the noise before defeat,” – everyone, pls don your strategic thinking hat, else Sun Tzu will be angry.
PS: Sun Tzu never said that – at least thats what internet says, but then, when has that stopped internet from attributing great oneliners to random legends. Bruce Lee still turns in his grave looking at great things in his name he never said.
PPS: Pls also share if you have a simpler articulation of strategy.
So, metoo hit India. Powerful men in media and entertainment called out on predatory behaviour.
Will it end male privilege and predatory behaviour? Tough to say. Also, yet to be seen is what course metoo takes, still early days. But one interesting trend is indeed secular – a lot of these stories talk of women in parties who got drunk and were assaulted. A lot of them talk of a consensual relation existing, then ending but the man still continuing to act as an asshole. Counter-voices talk of media trials and how the accused should get a chance to be heard. They also say that this can be misused by individuals or vested interests.
But, and that is a big one, no one has come out saying, “What was she doing getting drunk with men at midnight?” or, “She was already sleeping with him and it is a domestic spat,” or, “What clothes were she wearing?”. On Twitter, in media, the loudmouths, the culture custodians, the Bapus who would say, “Call your rapist bhaiyya,” none has come out questioning the clothes, the timing, her drinking or even her being in a non-marriage sexual relationship (wherever a consensual relationship, existed, ended and then the man assaulted her).
This, to me is a major trend. Are we, in India, finally getting ready to accept women as sexual creatures with their own agency over their sartorial, socialisation, career and sexual choices? Tall wish, tough ask. True.
So, why is no one slut shaming yet when this has been the go-to response – I’ve had conversations with people who slut shamed even in Delhi December 2016 rape (Nirbhaya) case. People in high places would be in wait and watch mode – see what direction it takes, see what all tumbles out, see what casualties are and see how much damage it causes to the predators. But common man, in conversations at paan shops and tea stalls and coffee houses too isn’t pointing out at her drinking at 2 in the night with men. A lot of it would be due to the fear of opprobrium – even the staunchest misogynist would keep his trap shut in the current climate. But still, this complete absence of slut shaming from the counter narrative to metoo is telling and it makes me hopeful. Somewhere it does mark the beginning of people at large seeing women as legitimate sexual beings and sex being a strictly consensual activity between two adults.
We have been trained in a toxic patriarchal environment, both men and women. But the new trends and new values are training us to look at things differently. I think metoo and the outrage over it is a strong training that could just mark the advent of an era when women can have choices without being judged.
Whether workplace harassment will stop due to metoo is still suspect but slut shaming could just be beginning to crumble.
Hasn’t 2018 been the best year for women in India?
Yes, despite all that, “yatra naryasto pujyante, ramante tatra devtah” or “our god gives women full rights to a fulfilling life, (of course, in accordance with his rules)” – all religions have treated women badly. Some less, some more. Sometimes violently vicious, exploitative and sometimes through shame, honour and propriety.
Fact also is that religions have controlled men too – but the extent to which men have had the leeway to choose and also, get away is way higher than allowed/practiced in most religions.
World religions originated in vastly different eras in far off continents across the world. Some spread through sword, some through sugar and some didn’t bother. They can’t agree if god is one or several, if god is a man (woman) or energy or a whisper in my ear. They can’t agree if the god resides in every stone or a specific stone or a wooden statuette. They can’t agree if I can marry once, four times or never at all. Heck, they can’t even agree if I can eat germs, cows or pigs or only curd rice. But, they all agree on one thing.
Women need to be controlled. That set, obviously they have to make examples of women that break ranks – how else will the control work.
Question is, why the religions that originated over thousands of year gaps across thousands of miles in different places, cultures, peoples, conditions with so much diversity in everything else converge on one thing – their treatment of women.
A wise man I know has an interesting perspective. It starts with a simple question.
Which religion would survive? The one that keeps having followers.
So, what would religions do? Try to increase the number of followers. Exactly like market share businesses.
And how to have more followers? Two ways: a) Conversion, and b) Reproduction. Conversion works for the ‘others’ – coerce, induce, indoctrinate. Reproduction works from the inside – and where does reproduction happen? You guessed it. Women’s bodies.
If the followers are products of religions, women’s bodies are the machines producing them. Obviously, you would want the machines to be under your control. (All those ‘machines grow brains then kill humans’ Terminator movies in Hollywood just show how much we fear machines getting independent). No wonder religions, clerics, men and everyone with power did their best to control ‘machines’.
And hence, the wise man says, all religions despite bitter, even violent disagreements on matters like the right length of the pajamas or the optimum dip of the ghoonghat, agree on one thing – women’s bodies need to be controlled.
Patriarchy directly follows from that, and with that, all else.