Go ahead, intimidate.

June 29, 2014 at 9:21 am (Uncategorized)

Okay, so maybe I stole the slogan from monginis. But the point is this – I have lived much of my life being lesser than who I am, because I thought my real self would scare people into thinking I’m some brilliant yet antisocial person.

You can go ahead and tell me that if I like myself then what people think should not matter. Yeah in theory and to make sure that when you are alone with yourself, you don’t hate your own company. But the truth is, I set store by social desirability as well. Much of what I do, requires an audience, and ergo, so does my personality.

Believe me its much easier going to an art gallery with people who would take guesses along with you about what an artwork means, rather than go alone. Of course, if you don’t have people like these, you’d rather go alone. But to arrive at this understanding, you need to meet and know a handful of people who do get you, and thankfully, I finally have.

The fact that these people are there in my life makes me secure enough to go ahead and be myself in front of people who don’t get me, or get intimidated by me. I no longer have to make myself less than I am, in order to make these people stay. Just like I’ve given up on petite and pretty shoes that don’t fit my big feet.

What I find limiting is not that these people don’t have what I do, but that they have not accessed it due too societal , parental or their own self imposed limitations. The last is perhaps the worst because people want to be average, normal or like everyone else and they stop themselves from being different. Why , I ask? Yes you will lose a few friends. But it’s much better to share a starry night in silence with someone who gets you, rather than be forced into the limited confines of a noisy disco.

The other extreme is people telling me what’s wrong with me (though I don’t remember asking them), and then telling me how I’m too straight forward or serious. I want to tell them how they were straightforward enough giving me advice and flaws I did not want to hear. Also, that they are serious about a sport or a kind of music that I’m not, and never held it against them but just took that as a part of their personality.

But I don’t. I just continue showing interest and seriousness in whatever I like and hope that they see that that’s who I am and I’ve given up smaller shoes. If they don’t, too bad, but that only means that those who matter to me accept me for who I am.

So yes, I don’t have a very great at fashion sense, I do think helping the economy by buying local is more important than brands, I give the product the advantage rather than who produced it, I don’t restrict myself to genres, have multiple hobbies, want to help ‘undesirable’ people and have high standards that I struggle to meet and rebuke myself if I don’t. If you find that intimidating, good. It will tell you that you have refused yourself some growth, which needs to change.

And if you wish to leave, do so. My liking for myself is more important than your boxed liking of me.

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An Open Letter to Chetan bhagat.. well, almost.

June 1, 2014 at 6:45 am (Opinions) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have been reading some faintly amusing columns that Mr. Bhagat writes either for TOI or on his website. Usually, I would just smile and let it pass, but I have just realized one thing: People take this man seriously. Now, I have read some his books, and I admire the topics he chooses but not the way he writes them. It’s not a journal entry or a friggin’ 8th std essay, that you would blabber anything that came to your head. It’s a novel for God’s sake. But it’s okay if he can’t observe the aesthetics of it – these are novels. But the problem is that the same approach continues when he writes columns. And sadly, as he is the ‘youth’ writer, people do believe him.

Which is why he needs to change his approach.

I will illustrate on the two articles where he goes around adivising women. One on women’s day, and the other on how to reduce their stress levels. Links -

http://www.chetanbhagat.com/blog/2013/03/12/five-things-women-need-to-change-about-themselves/

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Dont-worry-Be-happy/articleshow/9237496.cms?referral=PM

Now, on the face of it, it looks like he is trying to be nice and empowering. But one always needs to look beyond that. For example,

“At a broader level, this isn’t just about our women. We Indians have a habit of exploiting anyone without power”

So, women are without power unless they are the saas or the politican?

“However, the stubborn, fragile and pampered Indian male ego is a tough nut to crack” – and he uses this to justify why women should do MORE than what they are already doing, in order to be less stressed! Hello!?

And as King of Contradictions, he criticizes the movie cocktail for showing that ‘modern women find salvation in making phulkas’ and in the women’s day blog, he says ‘it’s okay if you can’t make 4 dishes for lunch, make 1″. Bottomline – still cook, woman. Can’t keep your man hungry can you?

Cleverly illustrated by this pic -

Image

(go on this tumblr for more of his contradictions hilariously illustrated - http://chetanbhagatforbooker.tumblr.com/ )

He has this idea in his blogs where he tries to pacify the men, by saying

” I’m biased, but Indian women are the most beautiful in the world. As mothers, sisters, daughters, colleagues, wives and girlfriends – we love them. Can you imagine life without the ladies?

It would be a universe full of messy, aggressive and egomaniacal males running the world, trying to outdo each other for no particular reason. There would be body odour,socks on the floor and nothing in the fridge to eat. The entertainment industry would die. Who wants to watch movies without actresses? “

So, the men should help in ‘saving’ the women, because they are good-looking, entertaining and help to maintain you? Really?

If one wants to empower women, he does not look for the benefits others can seek in it. That is just business, not empowerment.

I faintly remember another column of his about going to Ra.one, and the same blog told about how he is such a maid-saviour. About how one maid ran away and he still educated her replacement. Before he goes around being so pompous, he should look at the work organizations are doing – on a much larger scale. Often the rate of return on this work is very less – people in these organizations may feel that their work is bearing no fruit. But they continue to work, and don’t boast.

Anyway, that’s all trivialities, you would say. But then he says, women, since politicians don’t care about you, don’t vote. Instead, assert yourself, and change one man at a time. (http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/The-underage-optimist/the-new-vote-bank-for-politicians-aam-aurat/)

This particular line caused an outcry in some circles – “Turns out that when it comes to vote bank politics, women are the new Muslims”.

ARRE!

So cook (even if only one dish), clean, do not get stressed (because then he starts to write how bad the stress is and asks you to change and not the men as they have ‘fragile egos’), go to work, discuss work with hubby, be awesome mom, manage the maids, and now even go on some holy mission to change men!?

There is a very good reply to this written by Lakshmi Chaudhry – http://www.firstpost.com/politics/lets-get-political-why-the-aam-aurat-should-ignore-chetan-bhagat-1382287.html

To quote her, “I’m all for Bhagat telling women to “assert yourself” — but not when it is accompanied by a discouraging message that they need to cede politics entirely to men.  At least one important part of asserting yourself ought to include asserting your most basic right as a citizen on election day”.

To drive home her point, if we don’t vote it’s all the more likely to get a misogynist government. And if the govt fails, how can you tell women to reform one man at a time? theka le rakha hai sab ka? We are stressed enough as it is, Mr. Bhagat, as you have been kind enough to observe.

 

I do not have a problem that he thinks this way. I know many who do – many in the family in fact. You might tell them that if they are trying to empower women, why does it sound like they are doing a favour? And often, a favour to themselves as much as to women – becuase after all, what is bollywood without them actresses – but it does not sink in. (On that note, he called bollywood – ” our most modern and forward cinema”. Please, one look at the big movies and the stereotypes in them and we know that bollywood is neither forward nor modern. But then, he would have seen that was he not busy ‘enjoying’ Ra.one and Cocktail.)

I have a problem because people listen to him. I believe that when people in large numbers care about what you say, it is only right that you yourself care about what you say.

So my advice to him -

1) Please tell Indian men to change and not just women – and yes, despite their fragile egos.

2) Read. Please research the topics you talk about in columns. See what other people have to say. If you did this before you wrote novels, you could have published better writing.

 

Unless he does this, he is just the Kapil Sharma of writing – making fun of women throughout the show, and concluding with “aurton ki izzat karni chaye”.

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Clues in Crochet – Part 3 – Finale.

May 30, 2014 at 9:31 am (Imagination, Short Story) (, , , , , , , )

Christie and Mr. Mason were stunned and silenced by the sound. They could not believe it. The thugs and their boss – all blown to tithers. Finally, Christie found the strength to speak.

“Mr. Mason, these thugs were the only ones who knew we are here.. and now they are dead.. what will we do?”

“I believe Miss, that this was a devastating design, but nonetheless one for your safety, designed by Madam before she died.. I’m not saying she got the mines placed there – I would have known and so would other people.. but she definitely knew about them.. and she chose to be silent – except for that paper with the codes you’re carrying”.

Christie understood. Grannie might have foreseen that the thugs may get to Christie, and she put it in place so that both Christie and the treasure would be safe and the thugs would be finished off.

However, that still didn’t solve the problem that both of them were tied with rope to the pole, with no sign of human life around. Add to the fact that they hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday.

“But Mr. Mason, for us to get to the treasure or even to get back, we need to be freed of the ropes.. there’s no one around. How will we do that?”

“Oh miss, you do underestimate this farmer.. do you think he would roam about in hostile land without his indispensable tools?”

He then removed a swiss knife, and gradually began to cut the rope. It was a thick rope and it took them a while to get free, but they were eventually untied.

“Now,” said, Christie, massaging her wrists that seemed to be devoid of blood flow, what do we make of this?”

On the sheet of paper was a single line with a sort of code.

Rnd 5: (2 sc in next st, sc in nxt 3 st) 6 times (30 st)

“Any idea what this is, Mr. Mason?”

“It doesn’t sound familiar to me, but we ought to think more. Because if we do not get it right, we may get blown to pieces too. This is a ruthless but necessary part of Madam’s plan, to keep the treasure safe”.

They sat thinking, and chewing some leaves for want of food.

“Oh of course!”, said Christie, slapping her forehead in irritation.

“You know what it means?” said Mr. Mason, rather taken aback by the force of her slap.

“Mr. Mason, this part of the field, is it sort of like a hexagon.. a snowflake?”

“Well, if you think of it that way yes, the borders that the historians made do roughly resemble that shape.”

“This is crochet code, what is written on the paper – and I hope I remember it right, but its translates like this -

Rnd 5 This is the fifth round of the pattern.

2 sc in next st Make 2 single crochet stitches, both into the same stitch.

sc in next 3 st Make 1 single crochet stitch into each of the next 3 stitches.

(…) 6 times Repeat everything within the parentheses 6 times.

(30 st) You’ll make a total of 30 stitches in this round.”

“But Miss.. is there any way to cross-check? If we have this wrong, we can die here and all of Madam’s work will be in vain.”

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Mason. Light-weight objects do not trigger the mines so trying to make such a thing pass over the code-route will yield nothing. We have to take the risk”.

Slowly, they followed the path of the stitches laid out by the code. Christie thought her feat had turned to lead and her heart had stopped beating. She almost thought that with each next step, as they got closer to where the thugs were headed, she would die, blown to pieces by a mine. But she re-instilled faith in herself, believing fiercely in Grannie.

Alas, they reached a block of stones. This was where one of the men had said that the deposits of whatever they were looking for were bound to be.

Christie looked around. What, were they to dig now? They did not have shovels or anything.

Just then, she saw that a block in the stones was of a slightly different colour.

Carefully, she pulled out what seemed to be a wooden box. It was painted so as to camouflage with the rest of the boulders.

She opened it. Inside it was a remote-control like machine with several buttons on it and some sheets of paper.

First she opened the envelope labeled ‘To Christie’.

“Dear Christie,

If you have reached here, my plan has worked. When the historians came, they came with geologists, because here are deposits of a rare metal. No, it’s not gold. It’s Dalenium, this is what they called it after testing. The government that funded the project got greedy and wanted to use the reserves for harmful purposes. This is one of the few sites of the deposits. It can harness a lot of energy, much more efficient than coal. It is found in our fields in a sort of snowflake pattern – regular intervals of branched growth. To make sure that the deposits don’t fall into wrong hands until the current term of government ended, the head historian suggested we carefully mine the area. There would be casualties she said, but it was important to do so.

Soon after, despite her warnings, some of her staff tried fiddling and died in the procedure. We could not say it was the mines that were killing people, so we circulated strange stories. Sadly, the story of the deposits had leaked, and all sorts of people with vested interests started approaching me, directly and indirectly. I knew it was only a matter of days before they killed me in some obscure manner – food poisoning or some such, as I was vehemently refusing to relent to their negotiation. The historian thought it would be wise to leave for now and let the rumors die down.

The remote will help you make your way around the underground pathways that were made when they started digging up for the fossils. Also in this box is an exclusive will stating your ownership over the deposits. Lastly, you can also find information in this Box on Aki Ra, a living legend from Combodia, who has detonated many land-mines in his own country. You can request him to do so for our filed too, if you feel its safe. Along with him, the geologists, historians and of course, Mr. Mason, you should have a way out of this.

Follow the right path, use these resources wisely. You may be able to change the way the world functions, because we need energy for everything. And remember, trouble may be temporarily over, but don’t stop looking over your shoulder.

Yours,

Grannie”.

After reading this, when she looked up, Mr. Mason’s eyes were as misty as hers.

She read the post script -

“Oh, and yes, here are blue and white crochet coatees for you and Mr. Mason. For a change, you won’t have to look for any clues in them. Except perhaps, those of my love for the two of you”.

Image

A thank you to the follwing websites -

http://idiotsguides.com/static/quickguides/hobbiescrafts/how-to-read-a-crochet-pattern.html

http://www.noob.us/miscellaneous/defusing-land-mines-in-cambodia-scary/

The Aki Ra guy is real and has defused 10,000 land mines in Cambodia. Check out the above link for more.

 

 

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90′s Pictorial Film Rewind: Hum Aapke Hain Koun

May 21, 2014 at 10:26 am (Uncategorized)

Originally posted on ImaanSheikh:

Sorry for being at it again, but I couldn’t resist. I am ruining yet another 90′s classic for you.  Today we’re rewinding Hum Aapke Hain Koun. Believe it or not, there is a little bit of script in this wedding song compilation.

Hum Aapke Hain Koun (a musical) is the tragic true story of a dog called Tuffy, who just couldn’t take this shit anymore.

The film opens with a bunch of people playing cricket. Now for slower viewers, like yours truly, the makers of this film have been kind enough to label everything. Images and sounds are not enough for me to grasp these things.

BOY: Thank god they told me that was a boy under that hat. I was kind of sure it was a refrigerator until the close-up.

UMPIRE: This is more than a dog in a hat. If you look closely, it is a picture of every umpire…

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Clues in Crochet – part 2!

May 13, 2014 at 7:45 am (Imagination, Short Story) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

imagesWhen Christie came to, she was looking into kind old eyes. She blinked. She knew these eyes.

“Oh, my dear, don’t strain yourself. These men bludgeoned you rather hard on the head, I’m afraid.”

Of course, it was the old caretaker, Mr. Mason. Grannie always sang his praises.

“These bad men have been here when Madam was living, and now they want her treasure now that she is dead. They told me you were ill and I was to nurse you until you came to. It seems that they want you to lead them to Madam’s treasure. Tell me dear, is it true? You know where she kept it?”

“I just had an idea that the clues to the hiding place might be hidden in all the crochet work in the house.. you know how grannie loved to crochet, and that’s when they hit me on the head so bad. But who are these men?”

“Local mafia. But that’s not all. They seem to have tied up with some powerful people, who want to get their hands on this land, thus they tried to get you to sell first. But you did not and they also needed you to tell them where exactly to look. They have tried to locate it themselves but their men have just gotten lost in the vast estate, days without food and water and no way to get back. This land is much more mysterious than it looks, and they have finally realized that”.

“But what is this treasure Grannie keeps talking about in the letter?”

“I only know a bit of gold that can be accessed in some spots with rather deep digging. But what your grandmother meant was something entirely different. Even I do not know what it was, but it was more precious than gold. She would ride off early in the morning, and take a different servant each time and a different route each time. We don’t know what it was or how to find it, only you do.”

“But Mr. Mason, surely, they will kill us once they find what they’re after?”

Well, I can safely assume that the purpose of the first crochet was to let me know that the treasure is in the farm, or at least the way to it is, thought Christie.

Now, the second crochet, proceeding to the second room of the house, is an Afghan square in red and white. Towards the north-east of it, is rather a big knot. This can’t be a mistake, Grannie was simply too good at crochet..

“Mr. Mason, do you have a world map around here?”

“What do you need a world map for?” said one of the thugs.

“You hit me on the head, and it hurts even if I think I little. I don’t want to explain myself to a thick-head. I’m doing what I can to find the treasure. No internet connection in this remote place or I’d just use Google”.

“Here you are Miss, a life sized world map.”

“Oh good, now look up Afghanistan, is Kabul sort of towards the North-east?”

“Yes, it is why?”

“Look at this red knot here, this is not a mistake. On the afghan square crochet, Grannie has faintly traced the borders of Afghanishtan, but they have faded with time, what remains is her highlighting Kabul’s location. Are the coordinates of the place given on the map?”

“Yes, its 34.53 North and 69.16 East.”

Good! Is such a spot possible to locate on the farm? I believe that’s where either the next clue or treasure lies”

“If we measure in hectares no, but if we measured in acres, yes.. but that’s still a very vague and vast area to search, it would take days to dig up that patch, that would be towards the end of the farm, mainly our storage units built on infertile land..”

“Wait, what is common between crochet and land? the one unit which is common to both fabric and land..the yard! Think in yards, does it narrow down then?”

“If I super impose the acre plot you mentioned by the yards.. well then those coordinates would point to the tool-shed”.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

“Lot’s of dingy tools here, no treasure! Are you sure about this girl? The boss will be unhappy if you’ve led us on a wild-goose chase!”

“You can shove the boss..! Never mind!”

“Look here Miss,A crochet pattern under the toolbox!”

“Oh of course! One of the reasons why crochet is used is to save wooden surfaces from straining from tea cups.. and rust!”

“It’s different from the one’s we saw in the house Miss.”

“Yes, its a tunisian pattern, it’s started with a slipknot.. and then a chain, which you then replicate once the foundation row is made.. but there’s nothing, no clue within this one, as far as I know.. so it must be the method.. Mr. Mason, anywhere near hear where there’s ropes, or chain, or some construction work where foundations are laid, anything of that sort at all?”

“Well, there was an excavation site here, just when I came, I used to see all these learned people around. Madam said they were historians. They were laying foundation for big machines, permanent machines that go into the ground. They were looking for something.. But way too many of them died of mysterious deaths, and so, the work was left and the site abandoned. No one ever went back there, and so that’s why it’s all still there – the half-laid foundation, the ropes used to pull out rocks, the chains used in the digging machines.”

“That’s it then! that’s where the treasure is!” thought Christie, but she still didn’t feel it was right. There was a piece of paper with codes in her hand that fell from the box. What was the use of this?

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

The thugs grinned as the boss stepped down from the helicopter.

“The pretty-face found it boss! The detector is bleeping! We are positive that those rocks there are where the deposits are and what perhaps the historians and archaeologists were after!

“But wait!” said Christie. She and Mason were tied to a pole at the beginning of the site.

“Yeah right! Wait for you to come up with some funny business to stop us now that we are here! Once me and my men get the deposits, we are killing you and this old bugger, a finishing touch! You just wait here and watch!”

“Listen to me, i think this is not as easy as it looks..I think the area is..”

Just then, there was a loud noise, as bits of human flesh flow everywhere. The noise drowned Christie’s voice, but she said it anyway -

“mined!”

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So You Want to be a Therapist…

April 29, 2014 at 1:28 pm (Uncategorized)

Originally posted on Respect the Blankie:

By the end of the day Monday, it will have been 32 days since I’ve had a full day off.  And I’m not sure if Tuesday should really count, because I have to go to the dentist, which is sort of like taking a day off to be tortured for an hour or so.  (I’m pretty sure hell involves some lesser demon grinding that fluoride goo into your teeth, and deliberately getting it all over your gums while only letting you rinse your mouth out roughly every 45 seconds). Then it’s back to work on Wednesday.  By next week, things should slow down some, although I fear I may have just jinxed that.

Now, in fairness, some of those work days involved only a few sessions, plus attendant phone calls and paperwork.  But some involved 14 or 15-plus hour shifts or a ten hour shift transitioning into a three-hour assessment…

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The by-lanes of Kurla.

April 22, 2014 at 4:36 pm (Opinions, Random) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I have always at wanted to do volunteer work. When I saw a mail saying that Pratham foundation learning lab needed volunteers to help teach English to BMC school students, I leaped. There was some backward and forward discussion, because my class ought not to clash with a trip that was planned or with my research data collection. The trip was cancelled and I was to teach in the afternoons so mornings were free for data collection.

So came my first day. It was a group of young students who would soon go to college, and wanted to go ahead in life with confidence, and learning English would help them to do so. I was as nervous as they were, as I was assessing them, and they were assessing me. All of their needs were very different and I wondered if I would do any good a job.

I decided to start with grammar on the second class, but two of the students did not turn up. But at least three did. One of those missing came for the third class, and he told me he found the grammar and dictionary stuff useless, as he just wanted to read and get done with it. I did not force him to pay attention. But when we were doing reading towards the end of a class, he could not pronounce what was taught at the beginning. I told him this is why its necessary to learn the basics. I don’t know if I helped him grasp the need or built an even higher wall. I do hope its the former.

The other employees offered to take me to Kurla station via a shortcut, and since I didn’t want to be rude, I did agree. These were women whom I admired because they could mix with the students freely. I know that with me, there was an invisible wall. The short-cut consisted of going over a gutter and through the back-lanes. It.It is a different world out there. I won’t pretend to be the first one to point out  the contrasts of city life. We have all heard about the skyscrapers next to the slum.

But what I saw was my discomfort translated into tangible objects and sights. Because of Field Work from TISS, we have been taught not to show off when we go to work with people who might not be as economically and socially privileged as us. Some of my classmates agreed with it, others just pretended to do so to please the teachers. I was not sure why I myself followed this. I did not think we were at par with them, because regardless of how much we toned down, it was apparent that we came from different places.

Yet, that day, going to the station I realized something. It was not that just because we behaved properly with them, everyone else would. And the point was not to give that impression. Rather, it was to further the belief that they have in themselves. To grow that thing, that belief that pushed them to come to us, to come to an English class. To portray to them that kindness can exist. To portray to them that just like the gutter won’t go away overnight, to change their situation would not be an easy job, but the point is, the journey need not be unpleasant.

Even the by-lanes of Kurla can have trees that give shade, and whose leaves rustle in the wind.

Sophistication maybe owned by the upper class, but joy definitely isn’t.

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Clues in Crochet – Part 1.

April 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm (Short Story) (, , , , , )

Christie shifted her weight from one foot to another. It seemed to take an eternity to swallow the meaning of the letter she had in her hand. Her beloved grandma had passed away. She remembered spending lovely and interesting time in childhood at their country home. While growing up, school and career had taken priority, and her parents were not very fond of Grandma Annie, or Grannie, for short.

The reason why the letter was accompanied by a lawyer, was that Grannie had left the country home and the accompanying farm to Christie. Christie told the lawyer that she would be flying down for the funeral and would only then declare what she wanted to do with her inheritance.

Her parents came over to her studio apartment to frown about her decision to ‘waste money going down that village’. Her father was a banker and her mother, a school administrator. Not that the jobs made them so, but Christie always wondered how she could be the daughter of these two dreadfully boring and extremely financial minded (read: stingy) people.

She believed she inherited her creative streak from her Grannie. Grannie did crochet while Christie did modern art. She did not inherit lots of facial features from Grannie, except for the resolute, stubble nose which could scare people with its determination if it had to. It was doing so now.

Her father ventured hesitantly, ‘christie, dear, you are young..’

‘I’m 30 years old, father’

‘Well, yes, but younger to us, aren’t you? I say there’s no weight in this inheritance business. Why fly down to the downtrodden farm? I think you should do what the lawyer says, sell it to his firm. It will fetch you whatever meager price its worth and you can use that to finance a painting exhibition. It’s about time you had a proper launch’.

Christie raised an eyebrow, as if to say, ‘so now you know Art do you?’

Her mother saw this exchange and before a philosophical discussion on the importance of Art emerged, she chipped in, ‘I know the right thing to do would be to go wish mother her ultimate goodbye, but I’m sure she would understand that we are busy, and that to reach her in that obscure land will cause a lot of ticket fare, dear.. the local church have agreed to do the burial, haven’t they?’

‘Yes they have mother. But there are two main reasons why I need to go. Firstly, the trip is paid by the lawyer’s firm, and secondly, along with the paid trip, he was putting additional pressure on me to give up the land. I don’t like it. Something’s fishy. I think I owe it to Grannie to go see the place once and see if everything is OK’

But, dear..

Mom, dad, you don’t think painting is a real career anyway.. what does it matter if I do take a little break then?

The flight was tedious, but the prospect of seeing her childhood home kept Christie energized.

What Christie didn’t know, was that as she excitedly made her way from the airport to the farmhouse, she was being followed.

She walked into the lovely familiar veranda, where along the birch trees was the swing she would play on for hours as a child. As she crossed the rooms full of old wooden furniture and beautiful crochet adorning the wall, she abruptly came to a halt. There was her grandmother, lying on the hearse, lifeless and cold, a couple of neighbours by her side.

She cried. She howled.

After the funeral was over, the local pastor handed her a letter her grandmother had left for her.

“Dear Christie,

I have an inheritance that goes beyond what is easily visible, something that I used sparingly to get by and to finance the causes I believed in. But there are evil eyes on it, even as I die. That is why, although I’m leaving it to you, you’ll have to search for it, using both wit and memory. Have a good look at the house, I’m sure you’ll know what I am talking about.

Yours,

Grannie”

The letter puzzled Christie. She spent some time looking at it, but it  was clear that it would say no more. She walked back and forth in the house. She looked at each of the rooms. They were simply furnished, and she knew that there were no trap doors or secret passageways.

What was this inheritance then? Where was it? Where were the clues?

As she pondered over this, she looked at the Granny Square crochet hung over the fireplace. She smiled. Grannie sure was quirky, since the farm was square.. and she was a grandma..

Oh wait! Did that mean..

“The clues to the inheritance are hidden in the crochet!” exclaimed Christie

“Good, because you’ll be telling us exactly where the hell to look!”

Before she could identified the source of the voice, she felt a sharp pain at the back of her head and fell forward with a dull thud.

All turned black.

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A book review of ‘Sookhe Ghoont’, an Anthology by Ankit Dwivedi.

March 14, 2014 at 7:43 am (Review) (, , , , , , , , )

I think that this is the first time that I am officially reviewing a piece of writing on this blog. Note – I am no authority on Hindi literature, I have read very little of it; yet, I will try my best to do justice to this anthology. I will be going into a bit of a background first, so please bear with me.

The person – Ankit is a friend of mine from TISS. I actually met him only a few days before he published the book, say about ten days before. He was already ‘famous’ in the campus, for want of a better word and half my class is part of a theatre troupe with him, so we end up meeting. We end up talking about larger than life things each time we meet – life, philosophy, equality, whether literature is elitist, and things like that. Each chat with him stirs a lot of thought in my head, and so did his book, but more on that later. From this narrative, you might think he would be some steely-faced, philosopher type. Not at all true. His presence is very humble and unassuming. I think this shows through the poetry as well.

The process – Ankit tells me that 4 months ago, he did not even write a word. His friend Tanya then encouraged him to write down his thoughts, and suddenly, 41 poems were staring at him. It feels magical and movie-like, but I understand this. Sometimes, the right channel is all that is needed to get oneself flowing. He was in the process of getting appropriate cover art, and going to and fro the publisher and other nitty-gritties of publishing. He has not gone through an agent, but done it himself, with the help of a few friends and it really is commendable. Finally, came the night of the book launch. That too, was a snug, comfortable affair. The moving classical music added a celestial touch to the evening, while Ankit blushing and stammering at even the hint of praise added a comical one.

The poetry – The book consists of 41 poems, divided into two themes. The first theme is society, and this section is called ‘tamache’ with 28 poems under it. These are daily observations that anyone would have made on their way to and fro work, or they could be hidden facts of our society that we think of as ugly truths and ignore. From the subtle discrimination to clear maltreatment (of certain individuals in the society) are slowly portrayed as you turn the pages. What I like is that most of the poems are more questions or narrations than opinions. This leaves enough space for the reader to explore their views on the topic. If it were a stern opinion that was expressed, the confrontation would make sure that the possibility of any dialogue with oneself and one’s beliefs goes flying out the window. On the flipside, certain poems were slightly longer than they should be, in my opinion, so that the reader stays with the idea, rather than his or her mind starting to flee because of the length of the poem.

The second theme is exclusively on women. It is called ‘gehno ke peeche’ and has 13 poems under it. The various themes captured under it range from widowhood practices in India, to maternal instinct, the profession of prostitution and how women are generally perceived. The author’s distaste for all of the mistreatment and discrimination is very clear in all the poems, and the view has been articulately expressed. These are everyday stories that we might have nodded sympathetically to and stored away somewhere in our head. To bring this to the fore means facing the uncomfortable truth with regards to what a hostile world it is for women. What I found lacking however, was the narratives of women who do not perhaps think of themselves in terms of mainstream notions of women, or do not want things like beauty, freedom to study or other mainstream struggles of being a woman in a patriarchal society – but say themes like exploration of alternate sexuality and so on. Therefore, I found this section lacking, as compared to the first one. Still, it’s a good attempt.

Aesthetically speaking, you might find tune lacking in some poems. Ankit says that this book is not a book of poems expressing ideas, but a book of ideas expressing poems. Therefore, putting ideas forth takes priority over melody. But the words used are pretty common place, so you need not worry about not knowing Hindi too well. Also, Ankit mentioned trying to translate the poems into English sometime in the future, so hopefully, a wider public can read it. In the quality of poetry, I found a resonance with the works of Arun Kolatkar, the observational and narrative style, with subtle undertones, and often a crudeness which comes from more originality and less refining and polishing of words.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. Behind the poetry, I sense an angry mind. Angry, yet not pessimistic. I personally think that a pessimist is an angry person who has lost all hope. So, if a person is only angry yet, he still has hope. And although some of the poems may sound pessimistic, I somewhere sense a desperate attempt in them to make people uncomfortable and move them towards change. In fact, the whole idea of putting forth a book of such thoughts is to bring about some little change possible. This change might be just in the way people perceive such small social instances, but any revolution starts in the mind before it is out on the streets, and maybe this book will provide its own little impetus to that.

The cover of the Anthology

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Being angry, smart, ‘unwomanly’.

March 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm (Opinions) (, , , , , , , )

It’s not that I was unaware of the attitudes towards women. But events of the last few days have reminded me of them again, and i realized that in what little way I can, I have to dispel some notions of ‘protective measures’. In the last few days, I read Tehelka’s sting operation report on how police and other authorities think its the woman’s fault when she gets raped, I saw the Satyamev Jayate episodes on fighting rape and policing, I read the Huffpost report about Jenny Coller being asked not to perform because the orgnaizers of the event she was invited to did not want ‘too many female comedians’. Oh, and I also read about an Indian case where a woman who was gangraped, was abducted from police protection and raped again and the police said that ‘her injuries are not serious’. I googled world rape statistics, and although US tops the list, its only because of their reportage. Saudi is notorious for not looking at rape as a crime often, higher rungs of society getting a free reign, and sometimes, the victim herself getting punishment sometimes. But hey, they are at least vocal about it. In India we punish the rape survivor in the name of pity and justice.

Added to the above, some other classroom discussions have summed up the expectations from women that people at large seem to have-

Fall into one of the four categories – motherly, nice (wife/sister), hot/blonde (girlfriend), smart (boss/wife/sister), slut, timid (all women).

Oh, and often, all women have to be all categories, with different people.

Dress modestly.

But don’t be boring/ behenji

Sit at home.

Be outgoing, meet me in dark/shady places.

But don’t get raped.

If you do, don’t expect help.

Don’t make the police/court work for your problems while there are important issues like politician protection to work on.

Why do you sit at home and nag me? if you work you would know.

Why do you work? look you spoiled our children.

We will pressurize you at home and work but please don’t get anxious during pregnancy and give birth to a weird kid.

If you do, don’t expect everyone to be ok with the kid. Also, be ok with the blame.

Always be up for sex.

But, kids should not know we had sex.

Take care of your in-laws.

Don’t study because it gives you ideas.

Why did you not go to college? you are so slow and dumb.

Don’t have aspirations.

You are so aimless.

Don’t think so much in the relationship.

I gave you so many hints about the breakup, were you not thinking?

What do I have to say? 

Well, fuck you.

You put someone under so much pressure and give them so many conflicting messages, they are bound to be depressed and anxious. No wonder that depressive, anxiety and somatization disorders are much more common among women.

But here are some common myths about protective strategies -

1) Clothes cause rape/ covering prevents rape -

If we work with the assumption that young women who show skin are raped, why are neonatal kids and 90+ women raped?

Stats show that in India, majority women who were raped were wearing burqa/ saree/ shalwar kameez.

If covering helped, there would be no rapes in Saudi.

Also, if skin showing leads to attraction, and if we assume that causes rape, we are assuming that rape is about sexual urges. It is not. It is about power and dominance expressed through a sexual means.

Also, no matter what twisted sex fantasies you have, you don’t insert bottles and poles inside a woman if you feel sexual about her. That’s plain heavaniyat - this urdu word is the only one that fits the act. I can’t call in animalistic because animals don’t do this to each other.

2) Western = modern -

I sadly see many women falling pray to this along with men. They think that adopting foreign ways is the only way out of these dehati problems. But sex discrimination and sexism is everywhere. And hollywood and bollywood have rigid gender roles and other advertising gimmicks that promote the perception of some plastic women who looks good all the time, is smart but not smarter than the man.. the usual drill. In fact, Barbie, the doll most girls play with, is the distorted version of a woman, its not even a doll.This is what Barbie would look like if she represented the actual woman - http://time.com/12786/the-new-barbie-meet-the-doll-with-an-average-womans-proportions/

Many women I know, seek fitness not for themselves, but often for the admiration of others, often men. Fitness is still ok. Women go on crash diets, starve, and still complain. Body dysmorphic, self-image and eating disorders are far more common in women.

The alternative yo-yo effect is also seen, where women do all this to get married/get a relationship, but overeat once this age is gone.

Both aspects are extremely harmful to both body and mind.

What kind of modern is this?

3) If at all education is given, give it sparingly -

The first step strategy is to not educate women. But this leads to ‘less demand’ in the marriage market, therefore now a bachelor degree is required to get a good groom. Good groom = someone who will support you, with some harassing in-laws, in return for a bungalow, a vehicle, lots of gold and most of your self-respect.

So we do give education these days. But we want women to do conducive jobs. Instead of making family and married life conducive to a woman’s aspiration, she is expected to take the ‘mommy track’, or give up the job. Often, her female boss will ensure this. How dare she imagine she can have both kids and a job like her husband does?

And we say that we are less sexist than dehati people.

Not letting women learn, or putting a stop to the learning by creating a glass ceiling on the job, are ways in which the foot is still kept on women and thus the perception of women being weaker continues. You never let them be strong.

4) Shun all p words -

Pregnancy/ periods/ (meno)pausal -

There is so much silence and mystery surrounding these. Imagine if men bled 5 days a month, would they keep quite about it?

A humorous take on the subject by Gloria Steinem - http://www.haverford.edu/psych/ddavis/p109g/steinem.menstruate.html

But really, how far from the truth is she?

If a woman is angry or moody, its either pms or pregnancy related hormonal imbalance, but its ok for a man to be angry following slight insult and its all put under the table with the tag of ‘male ego’.

All of this makes me wonder where we are headed. There were hardly any female prophets, leaders of an older time, and how many female leaders of a new time do we have? How many of these leaders were either forced to ‘take the mommy track’ or be known as ‘iron ladies?’ It’s as if you have to fit into one box or another.

I do not hate men. But I am appalled by how many men, who seem to have more agency in a patriarchal society, have made peace with being silent spectators to this daily violation of ‘the fairer sex’.

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