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Trolls attacked my art

Since childhood, I have been fond of paintings. But it was in college that I got the opportunity to nurture my hobby further. While exploring various forms, I came across erotic art. It intrigued me. I did a lot of research on it, and tried to create a few.

Within a year, I became somewhat good at it. I was shy initially to show my work to the public. So, it was only confined to my close friends. But once, one of my friends, who is active on Instagram, showed me a few Instagram pages on erotic art. It was truly inspiring. Moreover, all the accounts were not under a pseudo name. Everyone has used their own name and identity. They were open about it and boldly showcasing their work!

I went on to search for more such Instagrammers. I came across many women artists as well. But could not find anyone from India. Being a woman from India, I had certain inhibitions about whether I should showcase my erotic art – that too using my real name.

Nevertheless, I went ahead with it. I created an Instagram page and started putting out all my work one by one. Initially, the response was good. But then gradually, too many vulgar messages started flooding my inbox. Someone wrote, “What a desperate b**ch you are!” And this was just the beginning.

I had to keep my Instagram page open to all because my circle is small. And naturally, I wanted to exhibit my paintings to a larger audience. But that backfired. Many people started commenting on my posts – where some abused me, others tried to ‘teach’ me about Indian values.

There were comments like, “Because of girls like you, our society has turned into a filthy one,” “you should not provoke men with these so-called ‘art’ work of yours!” “how can you call this an art?” “this is nothing but porn!”

Then some men texted me and said, “I can give what you want,” “I want to f**k you, just the way you show in your paintings.” There were lots of these vulgar texts, where people even slut-shammed me.

Not only men, even some women criticised my work. Someone said that I am a shameless slut. A woman said that and it hit me hard! And all this because of what? My artwork!

All this shocked me to the core. The only way I was initially coping with it was by giving them a befitting reply. But it made no sense to them. They were an orthodox, narrow-minded bunch of people. And changing my page’s privacy to a ‘closed’ one would not help either. That would just ruin the purpose of my page. My aim was to showcase my work to a large audience.

The worst was yet to come. One of my relatives saw the page and showed it to my parents. The way they reacted was expected. They were embarrassed and thought I was into some kind of pornography business. Finally, I deleted the page. Not because of my parents or the society, but because I wanted to preserve my artwork for a good audience, who would understand it and value it.

I am still coping with the hate and trauma of the incident. What shocks me the most is that I was not propagating violence or hate. I did not commit a crime. I am an artist. But they harassed me like anything.

As told to Shruti Das

Not a free space

Recently, after the Pulwama attack, one of my Facebook friends shared a post which said that India will attack Pakistan and abuse their women. This irked me and I commented, ‘I should report this post. Shouldn’t I? We are all in pain, we all want justice. But why should one abuse someone’s mother? What the hell is this!’

I also wrote that one should not bring someone’s mother or father into this. Firstly, I do not support this kind of hatred being spread. Secondly, abusing parents is not done. So, I protested. What followed was totally unpredictable.

People started abusing me. Some said that I am not a ‘true’ Indian, others commented that I don’t support my country and some even said, ‘Go to Pakistan.’ I got over 80 replies on my comment! There was so much hatred that I was shocked. The guy who posted this also replied, and he termed me a ‘feminist’, as if this too is an abusive word.

One of his friends joined in and abused me the most. He initially commented, ‘Please ignore this attention seeker.’ Then he said, ‘Stop acting like an over smart intellectual.’ Later, he went to my profile, took a screenshot of it and posted it in the comment section.

Then a girl came and abused me terribly. Then the Facebook friend (who posted the photo) made a comment to the effect that their men would be abused. ‘Is it okay now?’ Again, someone said, ‘You just want attention because you have no other work to do!’ One girl even said that I am doing all this to get the attention of that Facebook friend because he has a good body! This was beyond logic.

As this nonsense went on, I maintained my calm and did not abuse them even once. I had to switch off my phone for a few hours that day.  I was attacked online only because I protested against something unjust and shared my opinion, which is deeply disturbing.

Indrani Bose is a student.

As told to Shruti Das