Daily Archives: January 7, 2013

Her Name Was Jyoti

Mourners at a candlelight vigil
Photo – latimes.com

A woman lies naked on the side of the road.

She is bleeding profusely. The flash of headlights rushing by barely registers and she can hear the screams from her friend, who seems to be asking for help. He sounds like a broken record. She vaguely remembers them beating him, and trying to call the police on her mobile phone. That was before they had snatched the phone from her hands and moved on to her.

Another pair of headlights goes by, even faster this this time, her friend’s shouts growing weaker. She knows his last pleas are ignored as she feels a layer of dirt and rocks kick off the tires of the passing vehicle and hit her tender skin in a light hailstorm of earth. She wanders in and out of consciousness, barely aware of time. The minutes seem like hours, the hours feel like days.

Yesterday feels like it was a lifetime ago.

She thinks of her family. She tries to find comfort in the things she loves. Her movies. Her friends. She and her friend were just coming back from seeing “The Life of Pi,” one of her favorite books. She won’t let her mind go back to what happened after that. Somewhere between when she boarded the bus and when they threw her and her friend out of the bus. She can’t think about what just happened to her and the men who did it to her. Each memory feels like another wound, another blow, another thrust.

Into nothingness.

The world goes black.

A woman lies naked on the side of the road.

She is struggling to breathe, not realizing that she is slowly dying. Inside she feels like she might be dead already. At one point, as the men handed her off from one to the other, she had stopped fighting. She could never win, physically, this she knew. She had heard the men encouraging each other, congratulating each other after each had their turn with her. She had felt their flesh and the the unyielding stabs of the metal stick they had violated her with.

She wanders in and out of blackness. Is this it? Is this how it ends? she thinks. I am someone’s sister. I am someone’s daughter. I am someone’s friend. I had thought that maybe one day, I would be someone’s wife. Someone’s mother. Someone’s grandmother.

I was not supposed to die like this, she thinks. Not like this. Not today. As someone’s nobody. That much she knows. That much they cannot take away from her. She knows she is worth more than this, that this is not her shame. 

A woman lies naked on the side of the road.

Her insides have been crushed by the iron rod that was ruthlessly thrust into her again and again and again. Several organs have been ruptured and damaged, which explains the flood of blood surrounding her,  surrounding her naked body. The police will finally come, though there is some confusion about how to get her to the hospital it seems, and discussion of whose jurisdiction this falls into. She can hear the sirens and her friend yelling, “Bachao! Bachao!” (Save us. Save us) and someone seems to finally have heard. She does not know that by the time she makes it to the hospital it will be too late. Two hours too late to prevent her death.

A woman lies naked on the side of the road.

Her name is Jyoti.

And it was NOT her day to die.


The media has been covering the brutal murder and rape that occurred in New Delhi last week and took the life of a 23 year old woman. The woman’s father has decided to come out and publicly announce to the world that he is not ashamed to tell the world his daughter’s name. He wants her to be known as more than the woman who was gang-raped and killed in New Delhi. He wants to give other rape victim’s the courage to step forward to reveal their identities and to not live in shame of the crimes committed against them, not BY them.

The woman’s name is Jyoti Singh Pandey. She was 23 years old.

This piece is a work of fiction. None of us will ever know Jyoti’s thoughts or the terror she went through on that night. It is a torment that no woman should ever bear. When the official death of this woman, this CHILD, was announced last week, not only did her family mourn. Strangers from around the world mourned and grieved with them.

They grieved for a nameless woman.

And now we grieve for a girl with a name. Below is an image of Jyoti’s father who came forward to announce that his daughter’s name should be known.


There is something about the look in his eyes that I feel has haunted me since I saw his face in the article by The Mirror yesterday. They speak of a grief in this world that no man or woman should have to bear. I pray for Jyoti’s family that they will find a way to honor her memory and that seeing Jyoti’s name will bring other victims forwards. I pray that her friend recovers and can live his life without being forever haunted by the horror of that night.

I pray that this tragedy sparks a revolution in this world. Let nobody shy away from railing against the injustice of these travesties.

Every rape victim on this earth is somebody’s everything.

It is little wonder that rape is one of the least-reported crimes. Perhaps it is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused and, in reality, it is she who must prove her good reputation, her mental soundness, and her impeccable propriety.” – Freda Adler

In memory and honor of Jyoti Singh Pandey. R.I.P.

Les Mis Holiday Adventures – Part 1

I don’t remember when I first learned that “Les Miserables” was coming to the big screen, but I am pretty sure I jumped up and down and screamed like I was a 12 year old girl with a new training bra at a Justin Bieber concert.

I know that there are people who find “Les Mis” to be cheesy. Let me be clear that I am NOT one of those people. If I was on a deserted island that had electricity and a CD player and a wall (because you need to have an outlet somewhere) and I only got to pick one CD, I would pick the original London “Les Mis” cast’s recording in its entirety.

Not to push things, but I might also ask for some chap-stick, a razor and some soap.

When I was 16 and in the High School Choir, our teacher, Mr. Diehl introduced me to “Bring Him Home” from “Les Mis.” It’s the song that the main character, Jean Valjean, sings to God, asking him to save his adopted daughter’s true love. Instead, he asks God to take him, for he had lived his life.

“If I die, let me die. But let him live. Bring me home.”

I remember falling in love. With the song. With this character, who would give up his life to ensure his daughter’s happiness. With Mr. Diehl, whom I had been previously upset with for not letting us sing Diana Ross’s “Do You Know Where You’re Going to?” My brother, who was always excited when I showed some passion towards something other than MTV, bought me the dual tape soundtrack.

I remember going to my room at night and looking up at my ceiling as I would listen to song after song. Pretty soon, I knew every line of the soundtrack, and it was committed to memory. I would weep to myself as I cleaned my room and heard Jean Valjean asking, “Who Am I?” I wanted to scream, “He’s Jean Valjean, bitches!” as the tears streamed down my face. Once or twice (or maybe like a hundred times) when a crush of mine went unrequited, I would sing along with Eponine, the beautiful brunette whose love for Marius, the brooding student revolutionary, was forever doomed in “On My Own.”

When I was in my twenties, I finally saw my first love showing at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. In my life, I have seen the play for a total of four times at the same theater.  Every time I brought more than enough tissues but still ended up with a sea of snot and tears running down my face.

When the movie came out on Christmas Day, I knew I needed to be one of the first to see it.

I got John to agree to go with me the day after Christmas while Heather, our Au Pair, stayed home with the kids. Things did not start off well. During the lunch we grabbed before the movie, I realized that I had forgotten the case for my Invisalign braces. In a MacGuyver-esque move, I decided to wrap the braces in a cocktail napkin and slip them into my pocket.

The theater darkens and about three minutes in, I start crying. I know, I know. It was just the previews, but still, that new Tyler Perry movie looks intense, yo. So you can imagine that during the film, perhaps the tears might come quickly. They did. I wasn’t about to get up and miss anything though and all I had was the napkin with my Invisalign braces in them.

Oh well, a cocktail napkin would have to do.

As I snotted and sobbed into my single lone cocktail napkin for the next 3 hours. I felt like I had been granted a Christmas gift that I had been waiting for for years. When John and I left the theater, I could not shut up. About how brilliant it was to bring back Colm Wilksinson, the orginal Jean Valjean to play the Monsignor who saves Valjean’s soul in the movie. About Anne Hathaway’s incredible performance. About how much I wish they had cast someone other than Russell Crowe as Javert, the officer whose life purpose had become chasing escaped ex-con Valjean. The brilliance of casting Sascha Baron-Coen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers.

John said he liked it, but I think he was just saying that to make me happy. When we got home, I told Heather, our Au Pair and friend, about the movie.

Oh, I can’t wait to see it!” she said in her lovely Welsh accent.

Ok!” I said, putting the coat back on that I had just thrown on the chair.

Ok, what?” she asked.

Ok, I’m in. Let’s go! That’s cool, right John? You’ve got the kids, right?

He looked at me like I was crazy, and perhaps what he saw that moment WAS craziness because he did not argue. Not for too long anyway.

And so I went back to see “Les Mis” again, this time with Heather, on the SAME NIGHT.

And I decided I wanted to share this thing, this movie, this experience, which had been such a big influence on my own life and my own love of music, with my daughter.

But I was conflicted. You know? Because, well. She’s only 5 years old. But she is a mature 5 years old. If that makes any sense. Anyway, I talked to John about it and that went really, really well. (He said no and asked me what the hell I was thinking.) And of course, at that point, I decided I would put out how crazy I am on the Masala Chica Facebook page.

Here is what I posted:

“I keep trying to get John to agree that I can take our five year old, Shaila, to see “Les Miserables”. I know. I know. But if i close her eyes through a few bad scenes, I figure it should be alright. what do you think? (I grew up on Indian movies where I saw tons of violence).


Would really appreciate it.”

Of course, everybody agreed with me, which you can see if you go to the post written on December 28th.

Ok. They didn’t. At all, really. My favorite response is the one from Masala Chica supporter (in this case, dissenter, Sabina). Go and “Like” the page and add your own comment.

But don’t you fret, I did manage to see it a third time all before New Year’s Eve. Just in case you were worried for me.

More tomorrow on the “Les Mis Holiday Adventures.”  Tomorrow’s post has a special guest appearance from Ma and Papa and a lesson on why you shouldn’t start drinking champagne in the middle of the day.


P.S. Sneak preview – this is Ma and Papa, at our wedding reception seven years ago. Ma is like a typical Hindu Desi woman. She is the original “Village People.” Papa is just like Gandhi, and not just because he is Indian and bald. Wait, now, that I think about it, he may not be like Gandhi at all other than those two things.

But he does remind me of Belle’s Papa in “Beauty and the Beast.

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I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live out loud. Read More....

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