Celebrating Women with Pink Legal

To start the series that celebrates women, who better to begin with than a woman who is not just smart but also determined to support her tribe in every way she can. Not just a beauty with brains, but also a steel hearted human-

Manasi Chaudhary


Who is she, you ask?
“I am a lawyer who is passionate about gender equality and women’s rights. I was born in Mumbai and brought up in Hyderabad. I was raised to be free spirited, develop my own opinions, and dream big. 
I completed my law from Jindal Global Law School, Delhi and graduated with a medal as a topper of the batch. After graduation, I wanted to work in my hometown, Hyderabad, and I started practising in the Hyderabad High Court. In 2018, I worked under Justice DY Chandrachud in the Supreme Court in Delhi. I had the golden opportunity to assist him on three landmark judgments in India- Section 377 (decriminalising homosexuality), permitting women’s entry into the Sabrimala temple, and decriminalising adultery.”

Just another feminist, not really!
Here’s her story that led to the birth of Pink Legal.
I always felt very passionate about women’s rights and wanted to make a difference to the lives of women. On one occasion, I had to file a police complaint against two boys who had harassed me on the road. When I went to file the police complaint, it dawned upon me that I have the courage to file a police complaint because I am a lawyer. Any other woman in my place would probably choose to remain silent. Most women do not know how to file a police complaint, and many may not know that harassment is a criminal offence. 
Although laws in India are for women, women don’t know their legal rights. Therefore, as a lawyer, I decided to use my education and privilege to help women in the best way I can- by empowering them with the knowledge of their legal rights. I have started an initiative called Pink Legal, which is a one-stop platform for all laws related to women, right from rape, sexual harassment, to cyber bullying, to domestic violence, to property rights, to filing a police complaint. Pink Legal explains all women-related rights in an extremely easy to understand manner.  
Ever since I launched Pink Legal, every day we get various messages from women in distress, asking us for help. This has reinforced my understanding of how severe the gender inequality problem is in India, and how may women are in need of help. Women reaching out to Pink Legal motivates me every single day to make a difference as much as possible.

Any Challenges?
Fortunately for me, I don’t face the regular day to day challenges that most women face, especially after marriage. For example- even though women are now working and have their careers, they are still expected to take care of the house and cook for their husbands, whereas the same is not expected from their husbands. This puts double pressure on working women and continues the male privilege that Indian men feel entitled to. 
I have been blessed to be born to extremely loving, supportive, and encouraging parents, who have given me wings to fly as high as I can. They have given me the confidence to stand for what I believe in. Along with my parents, my husband and his family are also a great source of strength and support. Having a strong anchor at home helps me focus my energies on my work and career. 


Some Pro Tips:

  1. You can file a Zero FIR in any police station. 
  2. Police cannot arrest a woman after sunset and before sunrise. 
  3. You should file a police complaint at the earliest possible.
  4. Eve-teasing is a crime. You can complaint to the police.
  5. If you face any harassment, quickly collect evidence (like clicking a picture). This will help when you file a complaint. 
  6. If anyone is bullying you online, it is considered cyber crime. You should file a complaint with the police/cyber cell.
  7. If you are a woman in Hyderabad, know that the Hyderabad police and SHE Teams are extremely proactive. They are very helpful. Don’t hesitate to file a complaint.
  8. Every married woman has the right to live in her matrimonial house. No one can ask her to leave (this is very common in dowry harassment cases).
  9. Giving dowry is also a punishable offence, so don’t encourage dowry demands by giving dowry!

People can get in touch with me on the Pink Legal platform. We have a query box on each page of the website. I am listing the website and social media handles below:
http://pinklegal.in/
www.facebook.com/pinklegal.in
Instagram: @pinklegal.in

Dear Women,

“Where there is a woman, there is magic.” –Ntozake Shange

This is an open letter. This is to all the girls, each one of whom is a uniquely fascinating cocoon and will soon break out into a vibrant butterfly. This is to all the women who are currently discovering their super powers and importance in the world.

“Here’s to strong women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

There is so much out there that I couldn’t have anything more original and unique to say or share. But there are somethings that I wish for each of our beautiful souls…
May each one of us receive the love that you deserve and then some more.
May there be so much respect that the specialised need for women’s safety be eradicated.
May each one of us have the luxury to place ourselves first sometimes.
May there be enough space that we needn’t worry about being misunderstood.
May equality prevail so that we do not have to feel guilty about fairer sex privileges.
May each one of us experience acceptance on such a scale that we too learn to celebrate ourselves- in all complexions, through the stretch marks, for our shapes and sizes.
May there be no need to break through a glass ceiling because all we have is the horizon to look at.
May each one of us have the liberty to decide our own parental instincts, capacities and the lack of it, without being judged for it.
May there be more fathers, brothers, friends, boyfriends and husbands who do not attack femininity as a mainstream joke, nor do they appreciate it among their peers.
May we have the courage and support to chase our dreams and the comfort of knowing that failure isn’t ours always.
May we travel both the worlds- inside and the one around us, and thoroughly enjoy it.
May we all smile more often because we are happy, loved, cared for and cherished.


“Cinderella never asked for a prince. She asked for a night off and a dress.” –Kiera Cass

“A woman is like a tea bag: You can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.” –Oprah Winfrey

“Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” –G.D. Anderson

“There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise.” –W.E.B. Dubois

“Real queens fix each other’s crowns.”

Let’s celebrate us!

LOVE

Love is patient, Love is kind…
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

STORY 1
Boy met Girl. Girl was terrified of him. She was amused by him and he needed her help. He had puppy eyes and she had a caring heart. Locked in a situation with no probable alternatives. Girl begins to look after Boy with a determination of completing checklists. Before she knew it, he became her home. He knew how to lighten her up and she knew how to make him drool. They went through years of happy-sad, excitement-monotony, calm-distant like a wave in the ocean… effortless. One morning, while she was on a train away from home and he was being his happy self… He was gone, just like that.

STORY 2
She is curves. He is her pool of comfort.
He is always there. She always walks right into his arms.
She has a temper. He has solid shoulders.
He never judges. She is a ball of complexes.
And each night, they meet like the first time.
And each morning they part with a promise of a repeat.

STORY 3
Even at a distance his cologne tantalised her senses. Since her mid teens she spent hours being lost in his world. Smiling at the joys, crying with him through his hardships, laughing at moments of surprise and fun, calmly holding on when she didn’t know anything better, learning something new each time and experiencing more than a lifetime with him… ever since the first time she walked down the corridor, her hand holding him tight, she knew. She knew that this bond was forever. And so it was… just that simple!


A few days back I was asked if I have any love stories that I could share, for an assignment. While I had nothing that could help the person in question, I did realise that there are a few romances that I’ve been nurturing since a while now.
Here are my atypical love stories, in which I have invested just as much as I do in my human relationships. That’s right, in all the above stories the girl/woman is me. The male counterpart changes in each one of them.
The first is about Bruno- who walked into my life on his little fours and years later left us with no time to prepare.
The second one is about me and my mattress.
And the last one is for the love of books (think physical books and not soft copies).

Now quickly go and revisit the stories above if you thought love was all about two people. Love is actually an emotion and it is on us to feel and associate it with people places and things, which have an impact on us, which require us to put in an extra effort and sustain that commitment.

THEY, THE TEACHERS!

They are the world!

When the entire world celebrates teachers, I’ve decide to acknowledge and thank my constant teachers.
They don’t bare the title, they play the role. They are unrecognised, they are essential. There are no specific subjects and specialisations but they have all contributed in one way or another.

They taught me that age does not always decide the role.
They taught me that respect cannot be demanded- one has to earn it (age and relationship no bar).
They showed me that just because someone thinks differently than you, doesn’t always mean that either one of you is wrong.
They have respected my space when I wanted to stay alone without confusing me for a lonely person and forced their company upon me when they sensed my loneliness… the difference between being alone and being lonely makes a world of a difference.
They showed me that self worth must not come from grades, qualifications, pay cheques, material possessions, but from within.
They made me realise that forgiving is not easy but it isn’t impossible either.
They have shown me that learning has no age.
They taught me that sometimes proving to be the smartest in the room is the dumbest thing to do as you could be hurting someone with your ignorance of them.
They showed me that being sensitive is a strength and not a weakness, only if you believe it.
They taught me that being caring and understanding of others is a talent in itself and takes practice to become instinctive.
They taught me that it requires strength to say Yes or No, it requires smarts to choose between them and it takes courage to live up to the decision.
They made me realise that nature and our surroundings are our best teachers, only if we’re paying attention and filtering the noise actively.
They taught me that in a fix between two people of different age groups, there are no hard and fast rules regarding who initiates a solution. It is always the one with intent that goes first.
They showed me that the world doesn’t revolve around me and it is better that way.
They taught me that no problem is unique to only me, someone somewhere has been and is going through it with me.
They taught me that the physical distance has no capacity to put distance between two hearts. They will continue to stay connected irrespective of the time zones, with effort and trust.
They taught me that diversity is just that- diverse. Not everything is good or bad, worth or worthless.
They showed me that most priceless things are qualitative and cannot be en-cashed.
They taught me that food feeds your stomach, money feeds your ego and Travel feeds your soul- and we need ALL of them. 

On a daily basis I don’t show gratitude to their contribution as I’m busy in my quest to conquer everything else. 
They are the wheels to my chariot, often un-noticed but the essence of my functioning. They usually come in as small blessings when I am least expecting them and leave with no charade, with no claim for applause.

Who are they, you wonder?

Even I don’t know for sure. 
They are my family members. They are my friends. They are strangers on a street. They are my colleagues. They are the house help. They are bystanders.
They are the world!

The Circus Elephant

The show stopper for me always remained the elephants. The ginormous and magnificent beings that have ears and noses larger than all and suspiciously tiny eyes.

As a 90s kid, a large part of my summer vacations was making a day out of a trip to the local circus. We’d spend days planning the day; making a group, convincing parents, thinking of the potluck, prepping for the post show games in the garden and actually picking a date- most of which was done by the mothers while we just nagged around.
As trivial as it sounds right now it meant a great deal then. The drive to the venue was filled with incessant chatter among cousins and friends, trying to recall the events of the previous year’s circus, making creative assumptions about everything we wished to see in the current year’s performance and how much fun the immediate future was about to be. There was a large part of this conversation which revolved around the food our mothers had packed, the sandwiches and juices, the jams and candies… no one wanted to talk about the fruits of course.

The sight of a familiar, larger-than-life, multi-coloured, striped tent would automatically have us gushing. Our caps and hats in place and shoe laces tightened, we were like bulls waiting to charge, waiting to find a seat and waiting for the show to begin. Visiting the zoo was one of the compulsory trips on our annual curriculum, but a circus always held a different charm. The animals were the same, but here they were let loose instead of being inside cages and yet they were sources of entertainment rather than being intimidating; funny, isn’t it?
Year after year, the routines remained the same. The monkeys cycled, the gymnasts were on acrobats, the dogs carried baskets of flowers and sometimes fruits, the lions roared, the bikers rode in horizontal circles defying gravity, the masters made the lions act like tamed dogs, the magician pulled out vibrant ribbons, white pigeons and rabbits from their hats.

The show stopper for me always remained the elephants. The ginormous and magnificent beings that have ears and noses larger than all and suspiciously tiny eyes. Unaware of the order of the food web or placement of herbivores in it, to me they were the most powerful of them all. The reason they had all my attention was because despite their size they played the role of a juggler with hats and colourful balls. They stood on two legs over an inverted bucket. They made me laugh and tickled my ribs like the clowns around them.
Why was someone who is strong enough to uproot trees with a whisk of its trunk alone, being so cordial?

The answer of course came much later. Years after I had stopped going to circuses. Years after the use of animals at circuses was declared as cruelty against animals. It came in a lecture when the professor was teaching the concepts of Conditioning, Learned Helplessness and Parenting.

A baby elephant is left in shackles and nailed to the ground for majority of its free time. Every time it tries to break free, it is punished with severe pain around its ankles. With years of trial and error resulting in pain and failure, it learns a lesson for life!
Fast forward many years ahead, as a full blown adult sized elephant with the ability to crush anything and everything on its way, it remains humble. It is humbled by an experience of its childhood. It has the potential yet it undermine itself. Tied down to a spot with just a feeble rope and anchored to the ground using a disproportionately small piece of wood, it never tries to make a run for its freedom and allows itself to be commanded at the helm of a midget stick being pointed at it.

Many of our actions have consequences large enough to change the fate of a person and their self image.
When you compare between siblings or friends, you are always inflating someones self efficacy while deflating the other though the short term agenda was to motivate. When you tell your child that they are not yet prepared, you could be leaving a long term impression about them not being good enough. When you tell your spouse to be more like your parent, you are telling them that they do not compare or provide as well as you have been provided for. When you tell a hurt boy to not cry like a girl, you are forcing the thought process that girls are weak and among girls that boys are stronger. When you ask someone to work on their size, complexion and tan with the intention of helping them work on their appearance, you could be instilling an inferiority complex through discrimination.

There is an old hindi proverb “हाथी के दांत खाने के और दिखाने के और” which loosely translates to “elephants have different teeth to eat and different to show”.
It is the same with our words. They intend something but could have a very different effect.

People

I know there are terrible terrible people out there but listen:

Okay, I know there are terrible terrible people out there but listen:

I also know that there are people who stop and smile at tiny plants growing out of sidewalk cracks, people who laugh so loud that they snort, people who compliment others randomly, people who take pictures of their friends because they love seeing them happy, people who ramble about things that they’re passionate about, people who blush and stutter, people who are kind, people who are warm, people who love and love and love.

There are people who are intrigued on seeing a bird’s nest, people who slow their cars to let the pedestrians walk, people who stop to look at the clouds and smile, people who walk a mile extra to conserve the environment one step at a time, people who pet strays like their own, people who share food with strangers, people who give bear hugs, people who stay up all night with their loved ones just so they do not feel left alone, people who suffer with a simple just to provide two square meals for their family, people who do not like taking credit for things thy’ve contributed in, people who give and give and give.

My Love, there are all kinds of people out there… So wear the tint that you can appreciate and only then start looking at the world. Because, you will only find the kind that you seek.

Guided Choices

In this world, there are things you can only do alone and there are things you can only do with someone else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amounts.

During a group discussion in a management session, the professor said that he will get back to my colleagues question in a little while.
Then the professor further asked my colleague, “If you don’t mind me asking sir, do you have kids?”
To which my colleague replied with a smile, “Yes sir! I have a son.”
Professor: “How old is he? What is he doing?”
Colleague: “He is currently pursuing a financing course.”
Professor: “Does your son have freedom to make his own choices?”
Colleague: “Absolutely?”
Professor: “Do you trust your son?”
Colleague: *almost immediately* “Of course, completely!”
Professor: “Oh, that’s great…. How did he come to choose his field of vocation?”
Colleague: “By himself, with some council and guidance from my wife and I.”
Professor: “Are you sure you were just a guiding force and not an opinionated person with a convincing fatherly instinct?”
Colleague: *lost for words and drowning in retrospect*

Professor: “… so to answer your earlier question Sir, do you really think you trust you employees and give them freedom to perform when you did not really give your own child the complete freedom to choose what he will be practicing all this life?”


Give it a second before you start thinking or simple let your horses loose. I’m not pointing fingers at the father who wanted the best for his child and calls it his love and concern. I’m not pointing fingers at the Professor who got a bit personal in order to explain a point he thought was necessary to prove to us that just believing is not enough.

Just take a moment and think about the times you’ve made guided choices and now believe that they were truly your own. How often have you just tried to help someone make a decision while what you were sub-consciously doing was letting them know that the universal truth is actually just what you believe to be true based on your awareness… (which is not wrong, but just requires some thought).

Now think, how often have you just heard the other person out.
I know, for a fact, that I’ve made these guided choices and guided people through choices. But I’m also told that I’m a terrible counsellor for someone with a Masters in Psychology. I ask questions, some more questions, and then some more, until a framework emerges. Until a fabric of understanding is woven. Up until there is enough information to create a tailor made answer… Is it bad? Well I’m just indecisive like that!

The Backwards Law

It is only when you love all the colours in a rainbow do you accept the rainbow’s beauty or else you are just knit-picking!

Recently a friend shared an interesting post with me, via social media.
In all honesty its been a little more than a week since he shared it, but today I’ve decided to put it out here and share it with all you people.
Its taken me some time to ‘unpretzel my mind’ and its still a work in process…


‘Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”- the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you. The more you want to be spiritually enlightened, the more self-entered and shallow you become in trying to get there.’


If you are wondering what took me so long to chew this up, gulp it down and try to digest it… well maybe you should read it once again. And then one more time if you still feel the same way.
And these multiple reads were what I needed to internalise these words in the first place. The idea of always being happy and being positive has been so largely marketed and glamourised that we forget that we are more complex machines than any we have created and that we have innumerous softwares that work parallel to one another and mechanisms which are far beyond our own understanding and control.
It is not just okay to feel low, in fact sometimes you owe it to yourself- if you are low, allow yourself to feel it. If you are feeling upset or even angry, you have a reason; so don’t undermine your own smarts. By this I don’t mean to say that you can do outrageous things and take extreme measures, all I mean is that we need to feel the whole spectrum of our emotions and then act with the best possible alternatives.

Have you ever been given a compliment which not only do you not understand but cannot even believe it because you think the contrary of yourself? And somehow that compliment or comment (as you don’t believe it) comes back to you from time to time.
Ever wondered why someone thinks you are beautiful while you don’t think your complexion is good enough or you are too tall to look good or too broad structured to look cute? Are people really always trying to flatter you? Could they have an ulterior motive to achieve by making you doubt yourself and classify your insecurities flawed?

It is only when you love all the colours in a rainbow do you accept the rainbow’s beauty or else you are just knit-picking!

Paper Boats

“Could you read this poem out to me?”

Day by day I float my paper boats one by one down the running stream.
In big black letters I write my name on them and the name of the village where I live.
I hope that someone in some strange land will find them and know who I am.
I load my little boats with shiuli flowers from our garden, and hope that these blooms of the dawn will be carried safely to land in the night.
I launch my paper boats and look up into the sky and see the little clouds setting their white bulging sails.
I know not what playmate of mine in the sky sends them down the air to race with my boats!
When night comes I bury my face in my arms and dream that my paper boats float on and on under the midnight stars.
The fairies of sleep are sailing in them, and the lading is their baskets full of dreams.

– Rabindranath Tagore

During a sweltering summer afternoon, my younger sister- who sometimes is an adult but mostly a teenager, walks upto me with a book of poetry held loosely in her hand. She sinks next to me on the bed while I continued watched the fan over head churn and spit warm air around.
With her head rested on my raising and falling stomach and cotton stripped pyjama clad legs hanging lazily off the bed, she asked out of tired curiosity “Could you read this poem out to me?”. While a bit agitated, I agreed as there was nothing better at hand for me to occupy myself with.
There were no conversations that followed. Just the two of us, lost in our own lands of thought, counting the boats we have sailed to no specific destinations and longed for a response from the universe.
With a decade between the two of us, after a year of this summer afternoon, it still amuses me how age truly is just a number and how I (even now) continue to dwell in my own child-like fantasies hidden under the drapes of adulting.

Note:
1. Shiuli: also known as night-flowering jasmine and coral jasmine
2. Child-like: when an adult continues to have (nice) qualities of a child such as innocence and trustfulness

RESULTS

How you define success has a lot more to do with your feeling of achievement than the result itself.

With a huge number of teenagers and early adults receiving their scores in the present month in the month of May, each summer carrier the potential of transporting me back to a time when I faced the same fate.
I stood on the edge for hours a together, waiting for the fruits of my labour to be announced. Pondering if I had made silly mistakes. Fretting if I had not given my cent percent. Pulling at my inability to vividly remember what had been asked and how well had I tackled each shot.
And just as the time grew closer I started listing down all the reasons why this was important for me. Everything that had been told to me with the intent of motivating me suddenly started feeling like an extra pound on weight on my shoulders. Slowly it stopped mattering whether I had done a good job, what made me more nervous was whether I had done a job better than my counterparts. Oh! What a badly timed downward spiral it was.

Today, after a decade of receiving my higher secondary results and looking back at how far I’ve come from that day I have understood one thing.
Its not the percentage or the grades that have made me who I am today. It is what I chose to do with myself inspite of the grades that make me the person I am.
By no means am I saying that it is okay to not do your best, but it is essential to push yourself to the limit and then a little more, then the results you achieve should be accepted with open arms. Because somewhere, only when you know you have given it all that you got is it possible to not feel let down by yourself.

There are young adults who brand themselves based on the scores and parents who differently treat their children through comparison with others and then there are educators who segregate kids based on their memorising power.
This remains beyond me.
I have been a top scorer who through sudden turn of events struggled through high school to just float through the rest of my school life. I cannot and will not lie- it was difficult and sometimes even traumatising.

How did I survive?
My parents were my story of inspiration and my heroes. Even though they kept pushing me to work harder, sometimes through more harsher ways than the others; they made sure that I knew that they meant well. They were sensitive enough in their pursuit to know when I was reaching my limit.
But the inspiration was the fact that, two individuals with limited means and even more limited education, have been successful in creating a happy family, wealthy relationships and a respectable living. Through my childhood to early adulthood I had witnessed a wavering graph but most of it was growth. I had grown up seeing their humility and acceptance of their shortcomings while working hard each day with honesty and happiness.
Somewhere, I had started to believe that in is my character certificate that holds more weightage in life than my school marks certificate. But I also knew that if I could not improve one then I would have to work double hard with the other as I would be pushing a cart on a single wheel rather than having the support of both.

Today when I talk to my younger cousins and other students, I tell them only one thing:
Everything is equally important, make sure to create a neat balance. But don’t worry if you are falling short in one area because there are other areas which are your points of strength and can be used to your help with a little bit of faith and some confidence in yourself and the world.
Just make sure that you know where you place your happiness and that you use the right parameters to measure it. Sometimes even the most expensive car cannot buy you the contentment that a cup of tea being shared with well wisher.