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Extraordinary events ought to be documented somewhere, and when it comes to a media consensus, the secondary chroniclers of our era are bloggers. So I am looking at this moment in amazement where all of India seems to be in complete consensus on several things. This is pretty much the narrow band of reporting on the Tehelka Rape Case, which has my bull shit alarms blaring.

[Tweet "The narrow band of reporting on the Tehelka Rape Case has my bull shit alarms blaring."]

There is no doubt that if the incident happened as the victim says, and considering that Tejpal did not deny the details, it is rape. However, it is increasingly looking that the larger agenda is to destroy Tejpal rather than justice for a rape and this worries me, not because I have any love lost for the man, but because it threatens the livelihoods and work of many working at Tehelka who had nothing to do with the rape.

[Tweet "The #TehelkaRapeCase is full of anomalies and contradictions with our normal behavior."]

  1. A fleeting penetration by fingers is rape. That is what the law says. I agree completely with that. But the staunch insistence on it being an unforgivable sin, to the point of complete agreement across perspectives is something I am witnessing for the first time in all these years of speaking about women's rights. I would appreciate this agreement better, if the ones usually objecting to such definitions and pulling exceptions to argue rules weren't the ones with a grudge against tehelka. To understand what I mean, go back to the debates around the new law after the Delhi Rape case and see what many convinced of rape now had to say about a stricter definition of rape then. The most amazing part is not even the MRAs - who are practically guaranteed to argue the innocence of men are touching this one. If it is real, we can consider many problems on women's rights solved. Alas, I am not that gullible. This is a special case. Please note that I am saying it is rape - not defending Tejpal at all, but I am questioning the lack of the usual diversity of views seen.
  2. Who are the evil targets? Tejpal, Shoma and anyone famous who agrees with them in the least. This is a media war. Actual actions being similar to Shoma's is not a problem, as we see from the complete absence of questioning of the silence of the 3 colleagues the victim confided in - as long as they say and do the right things - which is accuse Tejpal of rape and anyone the least sympathetic to him of a cover up - which they did. So actual hiding of the crime for 10 days is not a problem for us. Some suggested it was probably out of respect for the victim's wishes. Strangely these are the same someones who demanded ignoring the victim's wishes when she didn't want an FIR.
    [Tweet "It is a media war. What you do is less important than who you criticize."]
  3. There is a calling out and shaming of people who invested in Tehelka. This, I don't see as relevant unless the target to bring down is Tehelka. I assume Tejpal did not require anyone to support his body parts while he raped if they had invested in his company. So when many news organizations go after that information anyway, I cannot help but assume that the news agenda is to find anything holes can be found in, rather than the rape alone. Which makes me wonder what else is going on.
    [Tweet "Is the target of media attention Tejpal as a rapist, or bringing down Tehelka?"]
  4. The same goes for the THINK festival company (I forget its name - in which Tejpal owns 80%, Shoma 10% and Tejpal's sister 10% - That one) I fail to see how it is relevant to the rape either.
  5. Deny *any* good done by Tejpal and anyone associated with him.
    1. Tejpal stepped down unconditionally. It wasn't like "I'll step down if you agree not to pursue this further" So while it is not the "atonement", it most certainly wasn't a limit imposed on the victim seeking justice. On the contrary, if the woman wanted to continue at Tehelka as she was urged, she would be able to not be threatened in her work environment at least initially till the situation evolved or resolved.
    2. Shoma at one point took a considerable risk under pressure to uphold the victim's wishes on the FIR by stating that she would refuse to cooperate unless the victim wanted it. For someone facing tremendous fire from all directions in addition to worries about survival of the organization, this was a very brave call courting further difficulty. She couldn't sustain it, and it didn't matter anyway since victim herself cooperated with the police.
    3. Tejpal's daughter is the only person apart from Shoma to confront Tejpal on the basis of the victim's reports. Both are demonized, while supporters of the victim are seen as those who hid the crime for 10 days and did nothing between the three of them to confront Tejpal privately either - if making a scene at the festival was a concern.
  6. Interpret facts to taste. Of the people who have resigned, one was known to have resigned at or before the festival, who is shown as resigning in outrage over this incidence - and she has spoken to media claiming this. Two others are among those who concealed the crimes for 10 days but have quit over how the victim was treated by Shoma. This is being presented as Tehelka employees leaving in outrage over how the victim was treated.
    [Tweet "A perception of abandonment of Tehelka is created. Why?"]
  7. This one won't come as a surprise. It is a staple of crimes against women and justice for crimes against women. Other than Tejpal, everyone else bearing the brunt of criticism is a woman. Shoma, women journalists at Tehelka being stalked by obscene trolls on Twitter, Tejpal's wife and daughters (including the one who spoke up for the victim). Ironically, the victim of the rape is among the women journalists of Tehelka who are getting trolled with rape taunts about her own rape by the right wing "saviors" of the same victim - probably since the victim's name being kept anonymous didn't tell them which woman to leave out of the abuse. Three men who let the victim remain in continued danger got a free pass.
    [Tweet "We are back to women being attacked in order to fight men."]
  8. Complete belief in the victim. I do think this is a good thing. It beats victim shaming any day, but again, this is not normal for India. In a country where the Delhi Gang Rape had a politician going "jab maryada ka ullanghan ho jaata hain to sita haran ho jata hain", there isn't anyone - no politicians, no policemen, no woman in some university - no one commenting on a rape that had a man single handedly overpowering a woman, partially undressing her, performing/attempting oral sex and penetration with fingers in the time it took for a lift to travel two floors. Not that a victim's account should be questioned publicly, but it is a departure from normal that not a single person has commented on it. We have even questioned accounts of victims who got physically overpowered and abducted and called them consensual, but not this. I don't watch TV, but yesterday, Alyque Padamsee got criticized for asking why the victim went into a lift. I will not presume to know what he said and I'm not going to defend it, but I can say for dead certain - call me a paranoid bitch if you want - but if I got raped in a lift the first time, I would damn well not enter it with the same person and no one else a second time. The victim may have had her reasons to do it, and she doesn't deserve to be violated in any case, but I did wonder in terms of how a woman can have so little self-preservation to enter the same situation as her rape with the same rapist within a day of the rape. While lack of self-preservation is also no excuse for a woman being violated, I am finding this unanimity of views rather unbelievable.
    [Tweet "Would you enter a lift with a person who had raped you in it on the previous day?"]
  9. Unprecedented crime. This rape seems to have become something of a unique thing, with regular leaks, "perfect" support for victim, vigilance against intimidation before it happens, you name it. Such care is most certainly not normal for our media either. Remember this is the media that goes informing neighbours of victim's rape to get good sound bytes. And yeah, the victim was a journalist in that example too, so not like this is how they are when they protect their own. Nor is this how media treats powerful men misusing their posts, because in what could have been a parallel scandal about the supreme court judge molesting an intern if it hadn't died in media consciousness, we know the name of the victim, but not judge. Just saying.
  10. And the killer anomaly. This is the only incident in my memory where both Arundhati Roy and Brinda Karat agree with the right wing. And don't underestimate Arundhati Roy's ability to be contrary. After the Delhi Gang rape, she was talking about class / caste bias in rape arrests.

[Tweet "The Tehelka Rape Case is an unprecedented unique event in crime against women in India"]

So yeah. This case is unique in inexplicable ways and urgent and important to do vengeance on the perpetrator in ways not found usually.

I will add any other points that occur to me later, but suffice it to say, the extremely narrow track of reporting with telling diversions does lend credence to Tarun Tejpal's claim of a conspiracy. What it is is anyone's guess, but this cannot be ethical.

What Tejpal did is most certainly wrong. This does not mean that what is being done to him is right.

Ricky Gervais usually tweets from the heart and has views I like when it comes to animals and atheism. Which is why it was quite delightful when he ripped into hunting as a sport. Unfortunately, I saw a side of Ricky Gervais or perhaps the "1st world" that I have been meaning to write about for a while.

TV presenter Melissa Bachman made a rather obnoxious tweet posing with a "beautiful" lion she had killed. Well, it would be more beautiful alive than unresponsive and soon to be decaying.

Rickky Gervais detonated. One tweet in particular that I really liked, I'm reproducing without the last three words.

"Sport is fair. If hunting was a sport the animal would have a gun too. If it doesn't you can't call yourself a sportsman." ~ Ricky Gervais

In condemning hunting, he brings up the unfairness of a protected and armed human attacking an unarmed and unsuspecting animal for sport and seeing it as a brave thing to do. He rightly points out that there is nothing brave about it. And he went ahead and trolled the daylights out of hunters talking about hunts. And his massive Twitter following followed.

The catch here is that the brilliant arguments questioning specisism and denouncing the inherent cruelty in hunting and asserting that all animals are equal (including us) used the term "a cunt" to describe the hunter for his unfair methods. This isn't all that different from the concept of "mardangi" (manhood) where a real mard (man) does what is honorable and fights fair or you throw bangles (traditionally worn by women) at someone to humiliate them and so on. Not all that different how this fight went. The full tweet for that beautiful quote is:

Sport is fair. If hunting was a sport the animal would have a gun too. If it doesn't you can't call yourself a sportsman. Just a cunt. ~ Ricky Gervais.

When I objected to the use of the word to describe cowardice or unfair methods, many of his followers trolled me. Some said that I was misunderstanding and that in the west, the word cunt is not considered offensive or sexual. That is a bit like saying "blacks" are not called blacks because of their skin color, and it is now a statement that is color neutral. And while these explanations were coming in, there were coming the standard uses of cunt too. As in "pussy" and "3rd world whore" and so on. So what is really happening here is that the word has got normalized. It has become acceptable to call someone a cunt, not the word cunt losing its connotations, because if it lost the connotations, there really isn't much else to recommend it over more descriptive insults like "coward" for someone who fights an unarmed creature unfairly. It is the sense of power conveyed by calling someone a cunt and thus inferior that serves as the degradation.

So it seems speciesism is the problem, while sexism and racism is fine.

[Tweet "So it seems speciesism is the problem, while sexism and racism is fine."]

Now here is my problem. The idea that men fight fair and women don't is a myth. Women rarely have the kind of power that can get away with being unfair, unchallenged, which kind of makes doing it iffy. If we are speaking in terms of comparison, then the physical or social power accessible to men and women makes it more likely that women fight more overwhelming odds than men. Statistically, women left in the dust by men when it comes to violence or hunting, for that matter. Women may be weaker and thus backing off from many fights, but they do not have the luxury of having the odds stacked in their favor. The hunter isn't backing off because he is weaker than the animal. So the idea of a "cunt" being a logical descriptor of a cowardly male "winning" a fight he cannot lose makes no sense. It is just the cliched male with an over-inflated sense of his own gender. Or, in other words, a prick.

Which brings me to the other part. This third world business (which Ricky Gervais did not say, making clear). We have western media reporting the recent women's rights related events in India with a fairly condescending attitude about how women are treated in India. Our actual statistics of violence against women being lower are explained as lack of reporting (and I have no doubt that this is true), but the I have seen far more condescending attitudes about women in the West. Also the idea that women in the West report crimes against them more is not necessarily true. For example, you couldn't trend a tag like cunt in India. Indian women would not let it happen. Indian MEN would not let it happen. If it comes to that, Indian law would not let it happen either. It is seen as discrimination here. Do people do it? Sure they do it. But the voices objecting are also robust.

I have a long history of antagonizing people and there is great diversity in the kind of people I manage to piss off, but I have seen consistently that tags with a lot of members from the "first world" generally have a greater degree of normalizing of insulting views and terms. And I spend most of my time pissing off Indian conservative right wing chauvinists who are often misogynists as well. Something symbolizing a woman's identity being used as an expression of inferiority and not even seeming to be sexist to most people is simply a sign of acceptability for humiliating women. "Nothing wrong with it. That is how women are." kind of agreement at the cost of women.

I am not making any conclusions here, more like pointing out that there are large gaps in the stereotypes we believe without questioning. Women are not necessarily a symbol of unfairness. The third world does not necessarily have less evolved attitudes on gender. And more importantly, it is the unfairness that is the problem, whether it is religious discrimination, gender abuse or species abuse. Objecting to one while promoting to the other "Hunting is Cunting" or a tag like #HuntTheCunt etc will not change the underlying thinking. It will only make some kinds of unfairness not ok in hindsight if someone famous objects to it.

The hope here is that Ricky Gervais has indeed shown a lot of sensitive thought on many things, and he is hopefully capable of extending it to gender as well, instead of going with existing stereotypes, which he is happy to break on many other subjects.

That said, I do understand the fury that drives sudden tweets of anger. Felt it myself, e-lynched it too. And I am damn glad that the hunting got called out anyway, though I'd have preferred it happened without getting into making a body part of women a definition of something unworthy.



I came across the touching story of Col. Swittens when my friend forwarded it to me. Since then I found copies on some blogs, a forum or two and other stray copy-pastes, and thought to have a page honoring him here, thinking he'd like to have a virtual memorial on a site fighting a war for change in thoughts and society for his beloved country.

As narrated by his dearest friend and course mate Unni.

There is a Prisoner Of War (POW) story of my course mate Joe I would like to tell.
He passed away last year in Pune of brain haemorrhage.
My story below is what I recollect of it from what he told me about it in 1973-74. Afterwards he never talked about it despite my repeated urging him to write an auto biography because his life’s story from beginning to his end was one of tenacity and resilience against incredible odds which would have made you cry on every page. I have never known life to f*** any one with such zest on daily basis as it did to Joe.
I first met AGJ Swittens (Joe) when I was returning home during term break after my first term in NDA in Jun/Jul 1967. Whilehaunching and front rolling in the corridor of the first class special compartment, simply to entertain a few bored seniors, I discovered that Joe and I came from the same place in Kerala. He from the coastal town of Alleppey and I from a village called Ambalapuzha, about 13 km further south. During the front rolling and haunching in confined space, around three feet of the compartment’s corridor, we bumped into each other many times and as a result we fused into a lifelong friendship that surpassed the ordinary feeling of brotherhood.
Because neither of us had any meaningful friends at home, during the holidays in that term break, as well as all the other term breaks that followed, Joe and I travelled the 13 km coastal strip to and fro to meet practically on daily basis. We did many interesting things together including joining a typing school because a large number of pretty Mallu girls were found going to the typing school. As a result of this very innovative idea we not only learnt to type but also the use of ‘Brail’ for man-woman communications after the sun set on Alleppey beach.  Sometimes we managed to get hold of a ‘Pauwwa’  Rum (smaller bottle with just 6 pegs) and learnt to drink it neat because the sea water did not taste good with Rum. It was difficult to climb a Coconut tree for coconut water and Coke was too expensive on our meagre pocket money. Hence, it was cheaper and more stimulating to sip neat rum, passing the bottle from one to the other, swearing everlasting friendship between each sip. Licking lime pickle in between helped tone down the euphoria. The packet of lime pickle came free with the ‘Pauwwa’.
Joe and I were just 16-19 yrs old when we were in NDA. Joe was the eldest son of the keeper of the lighthouse at Alleppy beach and had more than a dozen siblings of all shapes and sizes, mostly girls who giggled loudly from behind closed doors when I visited their house. His younger brother Johnny (now an AF officer) was just a tiny toddler then. It was only natural that both our parents soon began to treat us like twins because of the NDA induced behavioural pattern that made us indistinguishable one from the other. While my father thought of me as someone incapable of earning a livelihood, Joe’s father was counting the days when Joe would get a commission and add something to the family pot.
In our 4th term, ‘Rangila’ the terrible, in the equitation lines kicked Joe in the face and he lost four of his front teeth and had to  get dentures when he was 17 yrs old, a compulsive reason he had to use Brail to communicate with our GFs from the typing class. I think it was a blessing in disguise, probably the only time God was kind to Joe and I. His troubles were just beginning. We passed out of NDA in Dec 1969, he from J Sqn and I from F Sqn. The war clouds were beginning to rise in East Pak (now Bangladesh) border, but we had no idea of such things then and were single-mindedly interested only in the tactical manoeuvres of typing and Brail at Alleppey without misfiring our guns in the cockpits, a condom was unheard of those days. The tactical manoeuvre we had to master ourselves at our young age was ‘Coitus Interruptus’, a failsafe military tactic, not taught in NDA, but which we believed was perfected by the Roman army of Julius Caesar on their visit to Alexandria (Cleopatra).
While I went to the flying school in Bidar, Joe went to the Military Academy in Dehra Dun. He was commissioned into the Gorkha Rifles on 20 Dec 1970. After a short break he joined his Battalion (I think 1/4 GR).  His unit at that time (I think) was deployed right on the Indo Pak border in Chhamb sector somewhere near Mole and Phagla ahead of the Munawar Tawi river with Sikhs (5 Sikh?) on their northern flank and Assam Rifles (5 AR?) on their southern flank facing Koel and Bakan Paur, a few km ahead of them, probably held by the 111 Brigade of the Paki army.
Joe went through the usual initiation ceremonies in his battalion and by end of Nov 1971, he was already a hardened soldier and had endeared himself to his company commander. His company was deployed some 2 km away from the Unit HQ - rear administrative location with his CO and the 2 i/c. For tactical advantages Joe’s Company Commander had established an observation post (OP) about 400 mtrs ahead of the company deployment area ahead or almost on the Cease Fire Line (CFL) of 65 war which was at that time the border. The OP was around 50 feet higher than the surroundings and hence had a commanding view. The company itself was deployed in well prepared bunkers and trenches. The OP was simply a fox hole behind a low bush about four feet by three and around three feet deep, very painstakingly and surreptitiously dug over a period of time, at night, using helmets and Khukris so that it’s existence would not be noticed by the enemy. Every night the Company Commander would send someone or the other crawling forward towards the OP and they would replace the OP crew who had been there for the previous 24 hrs. The OP  crew generally consisted of a junior officer (or an NCO) with two Jawans simply for company and for time pass, usually  playing cards while staying hidden and surreptitiously observing enemy movements and deployments across the LOC. The enemy was deployed in depth and hence there was not much that one could see from the OP foxhole. So the OP duty was considered a boring and unproductive job, though it gave 2nd Lt AGJ Swittens some respite and relaxation from the daily rigours of infantry life.
On the evening of 3rd Dec 1971, a Friday, it was Joe’s turn to do the OP duty. So after sunset, after an early dinner, he collected his two Shakarpara packets (next day’s breakfast and lunch), filled his water bottle, and along with a Naik and two soldiers crawled to the OP to replace those who had spent the previous night and day there. Everything looked peaceful, there was no noise or activity or any lights from across the border and so Joe called up the Company Commander and reported, ’All quiet on the western front.’ He could not have been more mistaken, it was the lull before the storm. To his horror, Joe also discovered that the battery discharged and soon afterwards the ANPRC radio set went completely dead. But Joe was not too concerned, his entire Company was deployed just 400 mtrs behind him and that gave him a tremendous sense of security, adequate to fall asleep in the fox hole, a habit inculcated in NDA, to sleep instantly, anytime, anywhere, in any position.
Unknown to Joe, around 1800 hrs while he was on his way to the fox hole, the Paki AF crossed the border and launched a massive pre-emptive strike on various Indian airfields in the western sector. But all was quiet around the fox hole and Joe slept and dreamt, the kind of dreams that a healthy happy 20 yr old would have, I presume the Brail kind.
At around 2020 hrs Joe was rudely woken by incredible explosions of heavy calibre artillery shells. There was nothing that fell on him, but when he looked back he could see that his Company position was being obliterated systematically, inch by inch by a creeping barrage. He could not see from where the guns were firing, they were located beyond comprehensible distance in the west. However, he could see the entire sky filled with artillery shells streaking like meteors, each going overhead with shrieking banshee wail. Some were aimed at his Company position, but most of them were going deeper eastwards towards the other deployments of Indian infantry and armour. There were more than 150 enemy guns, probably 105 mm variety firing at them with deadly accuracy. Soon a similar number of Indian guns, probably of bigger calibre, began to return the fire. Heavy calibre artillery shells were firing to and fro, hundreds of them every minute over Joe’s head, but none fell on him. Joe and the three soldiers with him lay flat in the foxhole, one on top of the other for lack of space, cringing and shivering, covering their ears from the unbearable and most frightening sounds.
After about 30 minutes, they felt the ground begin to tremble like a mild earthquake. They heard clanking and grinding noises. When Joe peed out of the fox hole he saw a Paki Sherman tank about fifty meters ahead, heading straight for him. Joe ducked back into the fox hole and the tank rolled right over them almost crushing the fox hole and burying them into the ground. Soon there were other tanks going over them or around them and after a while he lost track which way they were coming or going, there were shouts and battle cry, soon he could hear soldiers running about, but he had no idea whether they were friends or foe. This went on all night.
In the twilight hours that arrived after an eternity (4th Dec 71), Joe poked his head out. He found himself surrounded by Paki soldiers and two Sherman tanks. When he looked backwards, he could not find any trace of his company. Unknown to Joe, when the shelling started, the Company along with the entire Indian Brigade had been ordered to withdraw, leaving poor Joe and his companions in the foxhole.
In the Foxhole the Naik took out his Khukri.
‘Shhaab’, he advised Joe, ‘Kafar Hunu Bhanda Marnu Ramro (Better to die than live like a coward)’.
The three soldiers took out their Khukri and Joe took our his revolver.
‘Ayo Gorkhali’, they screamed at the top of their voice, jumped out of the fox hole and charged out. They caught the Pakis completely by surprise, they were brewing or sipping tea with their weapons at ease. One of the tank crew jumped up, climbed his tank and let fly a burst of MMG fire at them. Joe tripped and fell down. The burst of bullets miraculously went by Joe, but cut up the other three Jawans into pieces. By then the Paki soldiers had grabbed their 303 rifles and formed a ring around Joe, twenty to one. Joe kept pointing his revolver from one to another, he turned round, fired one round and because his hands were shaking, the round went over the enemy’s head. The circle of enemy soldiers got closer and closer. Finally Joe gave up. He unhooked the revolver from his lanyard and put it on the ground. He raised his hands in surrender. A Paki JCO gestured to him to kneel. They ripped out the lanyard and bound his hands behind his back. For next half an hour they played ‘Russian Roulette’ with his own revolver. They would insert one round, twirl the drum and empty the gun on Joe’s head. Each time the gun clicked but did not fire, the Paki soldiers would laugh aloud, pass lurid comments and poke him with a bayonet several times. This went on and on and Joe died a thousand deaths.
After about half an hour, a Paki officer, probably a Colonel came by in a jeep. First he was unmoved by the fun that the Paki soldiers were having. Then better sense seemed to have prevailed. ‘Stop it,’ he ordered. ‘Put him behind my jeep.’  Joe was then taken to what he perceived as 111 Brigade HQ, large number of tents under camouflage netting, for interrogation. He was also given field dressing by a Paki MO who stitched up 64 bayonet wounds without the use of any morphine. Joe realised the futility of resistance, he was far too gone, he was just 20 yrs old, and he probably was the first helpless Indian POW of 1971 war.
About an hour later, there was a flurry of activity and the Pakis began dismantling the tent. Their HQ was being moved elsewhere. He was handed over to two villagers who put him into a bullock cart and took him westwards, he had no idea where they were taking him. His hands were put around his legs and tied tightly with his lanyard so that he was in a very uncomfortable yoga posture, completely immobile.  En-route, along the villages where they stopped, children pelted him with mud and stones, while their parents watched with disdain. He was not given any water or food. After a long ride, he was taken to a police station and locked up, probably at Kakian Wala. The Military Police visited twice. They stripped him naked, hung him on a hook and beat him with a thin Malacca cane. All the bayonet wounds which had been stitched up, tore open once again and he started to bleed profusely. Joe gave them his life history, that he was just twenty years old, that his father was a light house keeper, about how Rangila kicked him and how he lost his teeth, how much he yearned his typing class in Alleppey and probably about a stupid friend called Unni in the AF, but he stuck to his story that he had joined his unit just two days earlier and that he did not even know the name of his company commander leave alone deployment locations or strength of the Indian army in Chhamb. They beat him some more, just for the heck of it, but they fed him tea and rusk twice a day and two chapatis with dal at night. A local civilian compounder was called and he applied raw Iodine on his wounds, just as bad and painful as the beating.  After a day he was put into a local bus handcuffed to a policeman and taken by road to Rawalpindi jail. He was incarcerated there along with common criminals. He was issued prison clothing. However Joe did not throw away his OG jersey, a memento of his Indian army uniform.
Around the 7th or 8th Dec 1971, because Joe’s name was not announced on Paki radio as a POW, or the names of the three soldiers in the OP with him, his unit presumed that he was ‘missing believed killed’. Soon afterwards, the Army HQ sent a terse telegram to his father. ‘Your son/ward missing/ believed killed in action’.
For several nights, though the lighthouse continued to go round and round beaming high power lights to the ships at sea, there was gloom and darkness in the household below the lighthouse. The war had extinguished their aspirations and livelihood.
Seven months later, on 2 Jul 72 the Shimla accord was signed by Madam Indira Gandhi and Mr Bhutto. The two armies, both Indian and Pakis, went back to business as usual with their guns pointed at each other. A new Line of Control (LOC) was defined, doing away with the earlier CFL of 65. All captured territories by both sides were returned, except that in Chhamb where Bhutto managed to convince Indira Gandhi that it was to be gifted to them. Sacrifices, blood sweat and tears, in Chhamb and at Hajipir Pass were soon forgotten and in the diplomatic circle at Chanakyapuri both the Indian and Paki envoys began to once again have Mushairas and Mujras, excuses to hug and kiss each other as well as each other’s wives. Everyone went home happy and there was large acclaim internationally about how well India had handled the handing back of 98,000 Paki POWs. No one asked how many Indian POWs were still in Paki jails. Who cared, everyone was celebrating, writing their own citations and congratulating each other in Delhi.
Joe managed to make friends with his ‘Ward Supervisor’ in Rawalpindi jail, a convict with a life sentence for murder. He was very tall and well built sympathetic Pathan who was ‘desperately seeking Susan’. In Joe he found his Susan, a life’s companion. As Joe told me later with a sad smile, ‘What did it matter, what difference did it make, I was just 21. What choice was there, it was either being public property or exclusive private property. God probably decided that it was payback time for what we did to the typing girls on Alleppey beach’.
Despite his going around wearing his OG Jersy with two pips on either shoulders with 4 GR written on the epaulets, no one asked who he was, what crime he had committed and whether he had ever been tried for any crime in any court of law. He had no access to any news papers, magazines or a radio. In the Pathan’s cell, which Joe shared, he had a Paki calendar in Urdu on which he kept ticking the days and months as they flew by. Several times he wrote to the jail authorities, advising them that he was a POW, an Indian being kept in a civil jail with convicts without any trial and that he should be moved with other Indian POWs if there were any in Pak. But because the application had to be routed through the Pathan ward supervisor, who knew no English and who did not want to lose his Susan, none of his appeals were ever given to any one in authority. Two years went by. Everyone including me forgot about Joe Swittens.  Joe had no idea that the war was over, that there was a Shimla accord and that 98,000 Paki POWs had been returned to Pak and in reciprocity all known or publicly acknowledged Indian POWs had been sent back to India.
Then one day, in Feb 1973, the Pathan told Joe that there was a team from ‘Amnesty International’ who was to visit Rawalpindi jail, to check for human rights violations. He wanted Joe to act as the interpreter. Joe really had no choice, he had to do whatever the warder told him to do. So he went and had a haircut, shaved, got his prison clothes pressed, rubbed toothpaste on his 2nd Lt’s cloth pips on his OG jersey so that it looked bright, rubbed shoe polish on 4GR to get it to lose the faded look, polished his torn and tattered shoes and was ready for the Amnesty team when they arrived.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, follow me, I shall take you on a conducted tour of the prison’, he announced like Dev Anand in the movie Guide, smartly saluting the ladies and shaking hands with the gentleman. The Pathan had briefed him that he was to make all efforts to show off and to make belief that there was no human rights violation in Rawalpindi jail.
‘Of course not, everyone is treated well here’ Joe kept saying with a sad smile whenever someone questioned him.
There was an elderly Swiss woman from the Red Cross in the team who was more curious and inquisitive. She took Joe aside.
‘Mon Ami’, she asked, ‘Who are you and why are you wearing an army jersey with a pip on each shoulder, were you in the Paki army ?’.
‘No Mam’, replied Joe vehemently. ‘I am a POW. I am 2nd Lt AGJ Swittens of the Indian Army.’
‘Arme de terre l’Indianne ? Incredible’, the lady exclaimed. ‘Don’t you know that the war finished two years ago and that all POWs went back home last year ?’.
The Pathan did not like Joe having a private conversation in a language which he did not understand, he sensed that something was going wrong. He quickly herded the lady away. But before they left the jail, the lady asked the Pathan, ‘May I take your photo and one of this young man for my personal album ?’.
The Pathan had no choice because there were Paki jailors present at that time who desperately wanted to please the foreigners.
The lady took several photographs of the Pathan and one of Joe too.
‘Please send one photo to my father, he is at Alleppey light house in India,’ Joe whispered to the Swiss lady from Red Cross.
So it was that one fine morning in Jun or Jul 1973, a Photo card came by ordinary post, addressed simply to ‘Mr Swittens, Light House Alleppey, India’, on which there was an address and tel number of the person who sent it from Switzerland. And the photo at the back was a black and white close up of a smiling Joe Swittens with no teeth, in a torn OG jersy, but with shining pips and 4GR on his shoulder. Below the photo was inscribed ‘Rawalpindi Prison’. There was much consternation as well as incredulity at the light house. Mr Swittens, Joe’s father immediately sent a telegram to Army HQ and MoD describing the event. It took MoD almost four weeks to send a reply by normal post. ‘Your son/ward missing/believed killed in action’ the Under Secretary simply said. They had not even bothered to type it – it was a cyclostyled unsigned letter and left it to the recipient to cross out what was not applicable.
Mr Swittens went to see the local MLA in Alleppey who then had an agenda of his own. He raised the issue in Kerala assembly and soon there were questions asked by MPs in Delhi. It became a starred question in the question hour. The defence minister Jagjivan Ram sought time to reply. The R&AW were told to go and investigate in Rawalpindi Jail. They embarrassed the Pak Govt, the system in Pak did not want to accept that they had made a mistake by sending POWs to ordinary jails. They did not wish to proclaim that that POW camps were set up only after 15 Dec 71 and that there could be others who had suffered the same fate as Joe.
‘There is no 2nd Lt AGJ Swittens in Rawalpindi  Jail’ was their reply.
‘There is no 2nd Lt AGJ Swittens in Rawalpindi  Jail’, Jagjivan Ram announced in parliament with a sense of finality.
Mr Swittens, Joe’s father, did not give up.
He mobilised a few sympathetic Mallus and they in turn mobilised some more Mallus.
There was a demonstration outside the Pak embassy in Chanakyapuri. The press picked up the news. Someone, (I think the ‘Hindu’ paper) managed to get a sworn statement from the Swiss lady that she had indeed met a person in Rawalpindi jail who claimed that he was Joe and corroborated it with several photographs that she had taken. MEA asked the US Ambassador to intervene. Finally Pakis bowed to international pressure. They admitted that they did indeed have a person in Rawalpindi jail named ‘Wasim Khan Akram’ or such a name arrested for murder in general area of Kakian Wala and if the Indians think he is one of their army officers, Indians were welcome to have him.
2nd Lt AGJ Swittens walked through the Wagha border into the waiting arms of Indian military police (MP) sometime Sep Oct 1973. He was the last POW to be exchanged after 71 war. Promptly, as soon as he set foot in India, he was arrested and incarcerated in Red Fort in Delhi. He was accused of being a spy, that he voluntarily stayed back in Pak and that he was brain washed.
Joe told me afterwards, ’I did not mind what they did to me in Pak, after all they were the enemy. But what the MPs did to me afterwards in Red Fort was completely unjust’. He said all that with a smile. A man who had been to hell and back had much resilience and tenacity.
There were more protests by Mallus in front of the Red Fort and after a month of ill-treatment by our own MPs, Joe was asked to go and join his unit in Arunachal, at a post called Gelling which took  about 22 days to back pack (walk) from the Unit rear.
I think that is where I met him in 1973 or 74, and where he told me his POW story.  Gelling was another POW camp of sorts, at least for a 23 yr old.
The last time I met Joe was in his flat in Hinjewadi in Pune, around two years ago (2010). He only smiled, and said very happy things about our life and times while we passed the same Pauwwa back and forth. After 1973 Joe Swittens lived to fight again and again, with tenacity and resilience, and with the same chant ‘Ayo Gorkhali’ , the last time in Kargil war in Jul 99 after which he retired and settled in Pune.  Col Swittens spoke perfect Gorkhali besides several other languages. The last time I spoke to Joe was around three days before he died.
Joe died of a brain haemorrhage last year in the middle of the night with just his Alsatian dog for company. He died a lonely man. I can say this with certainty that his last words may have been the same, ‘Kafar Hunu Bhanda Marnu Ramro’.
I went to the lighthouse in Alleppey,
With half bottle of rum looking for the youth that I miss.
They looked at me with suspicion, ‘Are you a terrorist?’, they asked.
I went out into the setting sun and to the beach where we learnt to Brail,
The Typing Girls are all grand moms in Dubai,
The sea water tasted just the same.
So I passed the bottle from left hand to right hand
And took sips from each hand, one for Joe and one for me.
Joe my friend, I am glad you are gone, A prisoner of life no more.
Set a table for me, where ever you are,
And keep the chair tilted for me, I am bound to come after this life.
I walked back in the dark, the sun had set.
The band began to play
Sare Jahan Se Acha, Hindustan Hamara,
The band began to play..............
With an apology to Rudyard Kipling as well as Joe. I stole the story from both of you.
Please forgive me.


I don't have secrets. They take up too much brain power. I just have so much vivid detail that everything seems like discovering a secret. At the same time, I had never bothered to lay it all out like this. Good choices, bad choices, suffering, glory, all.

I did it now, because I realized that I have a deep clarity on the impact of various gender dynamics in my life. Most people experience this, but don't have the clarity to say, this, this, this and it was like this for me. The real impact of so many factors of our environment is experienced, rarely acknowledged. I realized that I had the ability to do this.

Each person has a story. Clothes are identity.

Initially, the series began as a defiant contempt for the lecherous comments about the slutwalk and women in general. It was a statement. Here I am. Plenty to leer at, plenty of vulnerabilities all mapped out so you know where it hurts. Saving you the fucking effort. Go ahead. I survived this shit, I'm not even going to be swatting at you. Look all you like, think all you like, say all you like, because it doesn't matter. I have a life. Been there, done that. T-Shirt didn't survive life.

You aren't doing anything unique, and if you think your grand leer will be etched in memory so that I'll think of your face every time I choose a shirt... hahaha good one. Next joke. No, you don't tell one more, you were the joke. Next lecher please.

But intimacy has a way of softening everything, even intimacy with self. Dignity begins with awareness. Awareness comes from learning. No one is born mature. Indian men in particular have very, very deep rooted conditioning about their superiority and about their right to judge women. They are obnoxious when they are crude. But are they intentionally evil, or simply getting kicks out of what they misguidedly think is stupidity?

An extreme form of this stupidity gets criminal. Lives shatter. But it takes living to understand the impact on that larger picture or microscopic individual beyond right-wrong, "they deserved it" or "I'm not like that". It isn't about any one or ten of us. It is the world we co-create.

I know for a fact, that it was incredibly stupid for a 16 year old to have a goal for finding a man and getting married at 18 simply to get out of her parents home. Would I have listened to anyone calling it stupid? No. My thought processes had me wrapped in thinking that that was my way out. It took years of living and introspection to admit that, even to myself. It wasn't wrong, per se. Just one choice, when I had better possibilities of responding. They weren't visible to me then.

We all do silly things we grow out of. Sometimes we never grow out of them. They are our choices and our mistakes to make. Our life to live.

I see the lecherous comments like that. I don't think shaming these men, or challenging them is useful. They have their convictions, and it is where they are in their life learning. Arguing doesn't change opinions. New insight does. No one is born perfect, no one achieves it even at death.

There is a Jungian concept called the Shadow Aspect. To put it for the lay man, we understand the world through a filter of our own thoughts. Its like the four blind men and the elephant. A woman in a dress can be sexy, shameless, fat, professional, slutty, caring, intelligent...... all or none of the above, depending on what's going on in your mind. You recognize what you have a mental concept for. When we criticize something, demean something all we achieve is exposing our thought processes.

With enough people with similar dirt, it may look acceptable, but that doesn't change the fact that its your shit in your brain. No one has an ambition to be bad. They are all doing the best with the cards they have. You may succeed in insulting a woman for your demons. The demons are still yours. Pointing endless women invading your world with things you don't allow yourself.

When a woman lives surrounded by judgments, I think, it doesn't make a dent on her awareness to be part of a massive crowd to know someone is watching the crowd and mentally masturbating, or whatever the commenters intend.

I would say to the assorted judgment parade, and specifically to the crude lobby, be there. Be there to stare, be there to cheer, be there thinking its useless, be there thinking its stupid women trivializing some profound shit, be there to marvel at the number of sluts in the world, or be there to be horrified at what the world is coming to. Whatever. History is happening. Its a moment of awareness. Be a part of it. It will validate your opinions, or give you food for thought.

Live and discover. Its the way of life.

The Series is in five parts: