Swathi Santhanagopalakrishnan – just because someone couldn’t handle rejection

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Swathi / Nungambakkam / Infosys / Techie / Gruesome Murder – these are words that have been flying across our keyboards, in the media and also in our minds. Just the audacity that went into a stupid plan (hacking in broad daylight in a public place),  and the fact that it did materialise – upsets me no end.

People are rising up, holding candles, giving media bytes, clicking tongues, sharing facebook posts , feeling appalled and all that. We are thinking about Swathi, her family, her day and her life that was just cut short in one unpleasant surprise. The invisible Swathi who was unknown till last Thursday – is now on national media. We are commenting on efforts of the police, or lack of it, how there was no dignity to her body after being slain.

While all this disturbs me a lot,  we are still missing the main point here. The fact that Swathi was murdered was because the murderer could not take rejection. He could not understand a simple “No”. He did not want to accept it. And so, he feels justified in his mind to develop a plan to ease the pain in his mind. How? By eliminating the person who uttered those words.

There are reports about an altercation between Swathi and the unidentified person. Have we reached a stage, where altercations and arguments must end in only one party being alive? Who decides that? What gave the man-in- the -checked shirt the right to end Swathi’s life? And it was not an unintentional happening. It was pre-planned.

Let us observe, how people across society view this. As women, we feel more pressurized to be on our guard. You will have to have an extra few thoughts – before you voice your opinion in a meeting, comment on someone’s clothes, or just go for an early morning jog. You might get murdered, woman! Be careful.

The reaction amongst men – is slightly varied. There are those who have daughters – this is a group that feels extreme fear. Things could go wrong, how much ever effort you could take. Mr. Santhanagopalakrishnan made the effort to drop Swathi outside the station everyday. How much more care could he have taken of his daughter? Travel with her to office as well? There are many thoughts that would have taken a similar turn among fathers blessed with daughters.

And there is another group – despite being politically correct in groups, this group thinks a bit more. They do not think more about Swathi and the murder. But their attitudes mirror their views and generalisations about women. As a friend of mine noticed the scene at her office – there was a subtle ” After having moved for so many years, when women break it off – that is just not fair! ”

What irks me – is that I witnessed a similar mindset during the Nirbhaya incident. And during the Meghalaya groping episode. Many male colleagues / acquaintances also voiced a “What was she doing at 10 pm with a guy? ” ” She must have dressed provocatively”

It irks me that the people saying this are in the 20 – 35 age group. The so called youth or young population.

It irks me that these were people with access to an education, a degree or in some cases maybe even two.

It irks me that these were people who would actually be in the target group during such incidents.

It irks me that they are able to empathise with some who has psychologically gone astray.

Why are they not able to understand a “No” ? Sometimes you are rejected – painful as it may be, It happens. Socially, Emotionally, Professionally – sometimes even intentionally.So would you resort to murder?

Murder your boss because he did not give you a good appraisal? Or stole your idea? Murder the guy who rejects your visa? Or Murder the person who cheated you in a business deal? Murder the maid who declines to work in your house, but works at the neighbours’? Your best friend of those days who just cannot find a common topic to discuss with you now? The employee who takes a bribe, but does no close the deal?

Would you murder them all?  The right to say “No” is a person’s choice.


The ability to accept it and move on – is a sign of maturity. Let us teach our children to handle rejection, to let go and move on, and to also learn to assert their ideas by saying a “No” firmly if the situation discerns it. That is the need of the hour. Much more than CCTvs, and police protection –  we need to change the apathy that is cancerous to our society and its people.





The changing face of men?

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There was this movie in 2011 – called “Mayakam Enna” .

The story revolves around the hero, an aspiring photographer, an eccentric-genius, in a close-knit group of friends. The protagonist ends up with his best friend’s [rather agressive] girlfriend (do not ask me the how and why of it!), carries on with her on the sly, marries her (with the friend giving them his blessings – again, I do not know why and how). Well, the story does not end there. The  aspiring photographer struggles to find his break, is demotivated by established photographers – goes into depression, booze, violence etc. The wife here (“a strong woman“) – threatens anyone who dares to talk against her husband with a case of sexual harassment, preaches on the “moral” standards of being a wife, and generally sulks, scolds other men, and gives her husband the silent treatment. And at the end of it all – the photographer gets his due [ the cliched scene – National Geographic publishes his picture], he comes out of depression, salutes his wife and all izz well!

Before you even consider it – I must say neither the movie nor the story appealed to me. In fact this movie was not even on my list-of-movies-to-see. The music did not appeal to me. And neither did the cast fail to raise my expectations. Then why did I endure this three hours of what was for me quite a stressful experience?


You see I am a teacher, and meet a lot of students  in the age group of 19-21. This movie seemed to have struck a chord with them. Just not the usual craze of song, dance, heroism and routine stuff … but actually seemed to influence their emotions and create a kind of yearning in them. I was witness to many facebook messages (mainly boys! ) that hailed the director, the movie and most of all the heroine and her character.

I was intrigued. I so wanted to understand – what was it that reached out to them. Was it the fact that they could empathise with the hero, who wanted to follow his passion? I figured that maybe many of these students were trudging along paths chosen by their parents and so a story of following your heart caught their attention. That was not the case.

Then I figured that maybe they were driven by the hormone-induced craze of their age and just found the heroine a PYT to their taste. Forgive me for appearing to be so myopic- but then some things never change, and we might as well accept that. Again, I have to eat my words because that also was not the case.

Common Facebook wishes were about how most of them wanted such a girl in their life. Now you may understand why I was driven to watch this movie.

These were the same boys who guffawed, jeered and could not accept the fact that there exists a concept called “House-husbands” (where the woman takes on the role of  the bread-winner, and the man does the “wifely” jobs at home). As the girls in their class laughed, the boys refused to even use the word “House-husband” and came up with terms like “house owner” , “ head of the family” , and “master of the house” . Just the word seemed to severely puncture their fragile ego. And many expressly stated that they were willing to accept their wives at equals but definitely not a role-reversal.

And these were the same boys who were awe-struck by an aggressive, scolding, girl – hardly demure by any standards, not the damsel-in-distress types, but someone who calls the shots. She hardly mollycoddles the man – in fact they seemed to spit abuses on each other from the beginning, hardly showed respect for each other and people around them, were brazenly physical and ended up getting married. Not the usual formula for romance, I would say. Well post marriage – the woman was the bread-winner and the master of the house, with the man just silent in depression and dependent on her.

So what is it that men these days want? A 20 year old today is the changing face of the generation – so is there a new trend here? Do men want to be relieved of their duties of “providing” and be “taken care of“? Are they willing to accept failure?  Are they open to accepting their weaknesses? Are they willing to move out of their “macho man” image and just be “people“? Would they enjoy the company of an independent woman who is willing to make decisions for both of them? Or was this whole phase an exercise in Utopian fantasy,but just hypocrisy in reality? For I was brought up on the diet that men are rather intimidated and insecure around an intelligent woman who has opinions and ambitions. So are men changing their thought processes? Coming to terms with an equal societal status? Is it getting better? Or on the other hand – worse?

I really do not know the answers to most of these questions. But there is transition brewing. Of that we must be aware.