Sunday, January 18, 2015

Gloom, grief, guilt, anger, frustration, worthlessness, etc: A diary after 15 years

I resort to diary-writing after other genres of writing fail me on this particular occasion

17 Jan 2015 (3 Magh, 2071)


During my school years, I used to keep a daily diary on days when I was especially happy or sad. Over time, that dichotomy became increasingly blurred and I started to scribble words even when the day was not especially memorable. Written words slowly became my refuge from the mundanity and endless frustrations of daily life. Slowly, the words that I produced started to fit into one or the other category supposedly more purposeful than a diary: essays, poetry, short stories, memoirs, book reviews, etc. Even when I produced up to four articles a week during my not-so-infrequent writing binges, not one of them came out as a mere daily diary.

Slowly, I had forgotten that keeping a diary used to give me a sensation that I had stored some happiness from the happy days and got a huge relief after venting my frustrations during the sad days.

A decade and a half after leaving the high school, I have again resorted to diary-keeping, or so to say, I am once again seeking the refuge in diary-writing. You may call it otherwise but for me, this is admission of my own incapability to express my feelings into written words so that they fit neatly into any other category.

Gloom, grief, guilt, anger, frustration, worthlessness, etc. If you combine all of these, may be some specific combination of these will be close to my mood today. I am not new to this but the intensity of the final complex emotion varies and it is incomparably deep today. This makes me feel unusual because it has been very long since I have found myself this deep in despair. Once upon a time, during my late teenage years, this was the routine thing but over time, I had adjusted so impeccably with my surroundings and my life that the same emotion started occurring in increasingly spaced spells.

Such is the intensity of my emotions today that I doubt I can capture it in any form of writing other than in a diary entry. Even with the freedom to forget about the prudence or coherence of the written words in a diary, I have serious doubts I will successfully express my feelings in the written words. 

Yet, avoiding writing for fear of a botched write-up is to admit failure before attempting. Let me put it down in whichever way I can then. 


 So what drove me to despair today? To keep it straight: a hapless woman in a place thousands of miles from my country stoned to death on trumped-up charges, her teenage sons having sided with the treacherous father who engineered the homicide, a Mullah ready to let an innocent woman being stoned to save his own skin from the authorities for a real crime he committed, a village leader mixing his own prejudice and poor judgment with his responsibility to deliver justice; and over all, a system so rigged and corrupted that the weak and vulnerable women have no recourse except tolerating every atrocity without a sigh of protest.

A movie? Yes, a movie. A 2008 movie depicting an incident in the post-revolution Iran in the eighties. Based on the true story by French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahabjam, the real story of Soraya Manutchehri.

Is it that prudent to be carried away by a movie, after all? I know it perfectly well that the whole story shown in the movie is the product of creativity of the artists; their words and emotions are scripted, and the whole setting has been created by individuals who are not necessarily neutral when it comes to the political insinuations that guide the main storyline.

But does that matter as long as it is based on the real story told to a journalist by the aunt of the victim? To me, it does not.

The sorry state of the women in the traditional Muslim societies in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran is still under raps as the rest of the world talks incessantly about human rights including the women's rights. Yet, we know something about the life there, thanks to some courageous people who venture there and come out with their artworks.

The first time I peeked into the abysmal lives of the womenfolk in those societies was in a documentary 'Swara (A bridge over troubled water)' directed by Samar Minallah in 2003 as the part of Film Southasia in Kathmandu. This dealt with the Pakhtun practice of giving minor girls in marriage as reparation for serious crimes such as murder committed by their fathers, brothers or uncles. The portrayal of the innocent girls ravaged by the brutality of their family enemy-turned-grooms was so moving that it was impossible to avoid a bout of nihilism after watching it. 

Then came the two moving documentaries by Nima Sarvestani made in Afghanistan. 'I was worth fifty sheep' and 'No burqas behind bars' were both screened in Kathmandu as part of the film festivals. They were the vivid depictions of the daily predicaments of the women in Afghanistan. The disturbing details about their suffering fictionalized in Khaled Hosseini's novel 'A thousand splendid suns' could be seen here in real time footage

The 2008 movie 'Stoning of Soraya M.' is based on the real story of Soraya Manutchehri who was stoned to death on 15 August 1986 in a small Iranian village named Kupayeh. After nine pregnancies and seven alive kids, Soraya becomes the 'inconvenient wife' of her husband who, once a petty criminal, has now secured the job of a prison guard in the post-revolution Iran. He wants to marry a 14 year old girl, much younger than his eldest son, daughter of a rich doctor who has been sentenced with death. All he has to do to get the poor girl is to secretly remove the file of the father from the list of criminals to be hanged. 

If you think that is height of treachery, there is more to come. Part of the ruling elite of the village, the husband doesn't want to look after two wives and seeks the ways to get rid of Soraya before bringing the new bride in; yet doesn't want to part with the dowry that Soraya had brought. The easiest way to do that would be to accuse her of adultery and do enough manipulations so that she is proved guilty. The law of the land would then proceed with her execution by stoning in public. 

Unlike a young woman, it is not easy proving a 35 years old mother of seven as adulterer. The husband threatens the local Mullah to expose him of his earlier crimes if the latter didn't help him in his mission. The village mayor is similarly hoodwinked. Finally, the ritual is completed and the hapless woman is taken to a waist-deep pit, the lower half of her body is buried there and then she is stoned to death. 

The realization that the agony of Soraya Manutchehri lasted for hours before the brutal executioners could completely douse the flames of her life is painful and troubling enough, but what is far more troubling is the realization that her case is neither isolated nor a thing of the past. Even worse, the bigotry and brutality of the husbands like Ghorban-Ali is no exception: in a setting where the powerful are accountable to no one, the god and the faith have been so thoroughly abused by the winners in the system that there are not many who can sympathize to the victims, let alone support and fight for them. 

With the brilliant artworks of the novelists, the journalists and the filmmakers, we have come to know something about the fate of fellow human beings in the societies other than ours. But have we done anything meaningful to alleviate the sufferings of the victims there? This is the ultimate question that has driven me to despair today.

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जीवन, खुशी अहंकार

जीवनमा अफ्ठ्यारा घुम्तीहरुमा हिंडिरहँदा मैले कुनै क्षणमा पलायनलाई एउटा विकल्पको रुपमा कल्पना गरेको थिएँ, त्यसलाई यथार्थमा बदल्ने आँट गरिनँ, त्यो बेग्लै कुरा हो त्यसबेला लाग्थ्योः मेरा समग्र दुखहरुको कारण मेरो वरपरको वातावरण हो, यसबाट साहसपूर्वक बाहिरिएँ भने नयाँ दुख आउलान् तर तत्क्षणका दुरुह दुखहरु गायब भएर जानेछन् कति गलत थिएँ !


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Why I write...

I do not know why I often tend to view people rather grimly: they usually are not as benevolent, well-intentioned and capable or strong as they appear to be. This assumption is founded on my own self-assessment, though I don’t have a clue as to whether it is justifiable to generalize an observation made in one individual. This being the fact, my views of writers as ‘capable’ people are not that encouraging: I tend to see them as people who intend to create really great and world-changing writings but most of the times end up producing parochial pieces. Also, given the fact that the society where we grow and learn is full of dishonesty, treachery, deceit and above else, mundanity, it is rather unrealistic to expect an entirely reinvigorating work of writing from every other person who scribbles words in paper.


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Somebody has said: “I was born intelligent but education ruined me”. I was born a mere child, as everyone is, and grew up as an ordinary teenager eventually landing up in youth and then adulthood. The extent to which formal education helped me to learn about the world may be debatable but it definitely did not ruin me. There were, however, things that nearly ruined me. There came moments when I contemplated some difficult choices. And there came and passed periods when I underwent through an apparently everlasting spell of agony. There came bends in life from which it was very tempting to move straight ahead instead of following the zigzag course.


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