On Returning Home

When you return home before her and look across the drawing room, you notice a certain change in orderliness. On giving a closer look, you realize how she must have struggled to make up for waking up late. There is palpitation in the unfinished bowl of cornflakes and there’s disgust in the haphazardly torn packet of yogurt. The half-wet towel in the washroom was the final surrender before time. Three to four pair of shoes heaped over one another. What does that mean? She must have tried all of them in a mad rush to see which one goes well with her attire.

Why bother about the physical beauty of a shoe? I need time to wonder.

Has it ever happened to you that you return very late at night and since the only member in the family is sleeping away to glory, you try to figure out what has changed in the house ever since you left? The dining table looks half-empty and unusually prim. The nightly silence is often broken by hesitant drops of water on the wash basin. You tiptoe into the bedroom and find her in sleep and with glasses on. My Feudal Lord (by Tehmina Durrani) lies on the bed in abandonment. You are too tired to bother either of them.

Returning home is a strange feeling when the only member is either missing or sleeping. Moral of the story: arrive on time.

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Iranian Movie ‘Hush! Girls Don’t Scream’ and the Undercurrent of Helplessness

What happens when society stops looking inward? How do people suffer when they refuse to admit victimisation lest it jeopardises their social standing? The victim is declared the convict and the suffering of the hunted is perpetuated.

After watching ‘Hush! Girls Don’t Scream’ as a part of the FFSI International Film Festival at the Indian Habitat Centre, my faith in Iranian cinema strengthened further. As far as the story goes: A woman gets her hands smeared in blood by murdering a security guard on the day before her marriage. As the fear of capital punishment lurks, the interrogator and the attorney try to unearth the real reason behind this crime, and that too at a least opportune moment for the accused.

It turned out that the accused was a victim of child abuse. She has been living in “fear, doubt, and hatred” because she has been repeatedly violated and her honour was decapitated from her existence. Life is one long nightmare for her and she is too afraid to turn off the lights. The childhood trauma graduated into an everlasting phobia that made her do things which are hard to justify.

A nation (read Iran) that treats ‘women’s rights’ as an oxymoron, is still a hostage to a justice system that is incapable of delivering justice. Like all other nations, conclusion is drawn based on proofs and circumstantial evidence. There’s no place for contemplation (or introspection, if you wish). Bodily harm leaves behind traces of crime and the perpetrator faces the noose. But what happens to those offenders who commit crimes against the soul? Their ghastly act doesn’t leave any tangible trace for the court of law to consider.

Director Pouran Derakhshandeh took it upon herself to highlight the inept mechanism in use for delivering social justice. She takes a leaf from the everyday situation wherein the victim is left at the mercy of ‘evidence’ to convince the judges that she is not the hunter, that she is being hunted.

The movie smacks of courage. It doesn’t shy away from raising another grave concern – under-reporting of cases of child molestation. This is rooted in the tacit acceptance of the age-old practice of intimidating the ‘weaker sex’ into silence. The women in the movie didn’t keep mum. They poured out their angst and anger. Yet, they looked as helpless as the judiciary – incapable of safeguarding the tormented.