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.


Permalink 1 Comment

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.



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.


Permalink 1 Comment

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

Permalink Leave a Comment

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 -

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 -

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’.


Permalink 3 Comments

Life-hacks to be learned from Govinda

January 14, 2014 at 4:33 pm (Random) (, , , , , , , , , )

(Actually, from his roles, or him. Not sure. It’s a blurred line.) –

Always choose a rich, dumb partner –you see how he finds rich women who are dumb enough to fall for him? Also, because we are in India, way hotter than him? You don’t even need to do much to impress them, the fact that you treat them like gobariya and give some UP ka thumkas, is such different and rare treatment that they will fall for it.

Start weird fashion trends – If you were to wear a belt on a velvet shirt, even if you were a weirdo, you would shy away. You don’t want to be a moving disco-light after all. But no, Govinda would start such trends and be known as no.1 for it.

You don’t need to lose weight if your fat dances – He can make the fat on his face (and elsewhere) perform a dance move, if he likes. Who would want to lose precious stuff like that over something silly like health or hotness?

Yell ‘yaaaa’ before hitting opponents – this results in the combined effect of deafening the opponent before your lose limb hits them, and they are both incapacitated as well as repulsed by the excellent body odour such hard exercise has resulted in you, getting them to shy away before the fight even begins. More points scored with the chamiya – who you have assumed to be a helpless women – not sure if she is so unsufferably helpless because she’s in love with you, but that’s not important, is it?

Chuck away self-respect – It would take little to no self preservance to do the stunts, roles and dialogues of his movies, or maybe, that’s what he likes and how he functions. But the point is, don’t think too much. People don’t like thinkers and brooders and criticizers. Might as well be a horrible excuse of an escape for the sheep.. er, masses.

Be ready to be the dork – Not that it was not darkish enough before, once your era is gone, be ready to play the dork in contrast to Salman Khan or Akshay Kumar, not to say they are any less dorkish themselves. Occassionally, you may do actually borderline cute movies like Jodi no.1

If nothing else works.. become a politician – No need to explain that one. Tried and tested.

So, hope you picked up scoops of dung-y lessons!

(Written in good humour, a satire on his works. Nothing personal, apart from the words!)



Permalink Leave a Comment

My new year evolution.

January 1, 2014 at 1:34 pm (Opinions) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The norm is usually to make new year resolutions a day or so before the new year, and stick to them for a period of time, ranging from a day to a week, to a month, depending on how serious you were.
I stopped making resolutions many years ago, when I realized that I felt doing new things in between the year, and so I initiate new things and behaviours, regardless of the date.
What I would like to do today, is to resolve to take away some things, undo some actions and reduce some behaviors. Therefore, I’m going to subtract what I perceive as toxic, because often, when we keep adding new agendas, we forget to discard the useless ones. My evolution will take place by discarding what isn’t useful any more.

So here is a short list-

1) Less emotional dependence- although I do not do this with every relationship in my life, but within some, I become extremely dependent, and I can’t often control. Vulnerability in close relationships is good,given that it’s mutual. If not, you feel indebted and unwanted. So I’ll choose carefully whom to be vulnerable with, and only if they are equally unguarded with me.

2) Less procrastination- If at all I take on too many tasks, then I should be able to do each of them on time so that I don’t delay. I’m spending this week clearing many backlogs so as to have a fresh start. When things are happening on time, I have a sense of control, that makes me feel healthy.

3) Less bunking- This applies to lectures as well as aerobics class. Sometimes, it may feel like a stretch to attend everything, but I must try my best to do so. I miss out a lot when I can’t go. I’m sure that I can use my time well.

4) Less whining- I’m trying my best to not complain, and rather put across what I feel in a more constructive way. If you believe like I do, that everything is energy, and that it can change forms, converting it from negative to positive is not only possible, but also important. This will also help me develop as a therapist.

5) Less hatred- Hatred, unjustified or justified, is toxic. I will try to understand and work with my prejudices and biases. Even if hatred or anger is justified, it harms me more than the person it’s directed at, so I will let go, yet, obviously, maintain self respect.

So, as the picture below illustrates, I will look at this year and the people in it, but with love.


Permalink Leave a Comment

Freedom of Expression* (*conditions apply)

December 20, 2013 at 2:13 pm (Opinions) (, , , , , , )

It’s been a long time since I put up a post. And there are many things I could talk about. The regressive 377, the stereotyping that I see happening, or the attitudes towards mental health that I see in my field, could be talked about. But I have expressed about them through arts or words elsewhere on the internet, so today I’m going to focus on something much more basic and underlying: Expression.

Essentially, all our problems are related to expression. If I can express my poverty and get help, I have a good government. If I can express my sexuality and not be judged and jailed, I have a good judiciary. If I can express symptoms of a psychological disorder and be treated just like any other patient and not as a freak, I have good health care facilities. If I can tell my partner about the times when I really am angry and irritated, and he or she does not leave, I have a good partner. If I can express my sense of humour and be liked for it, I have good friends.

The sad part is not the lack of expression, but how expression is screwed in the favour of the majority or the dominant. These are straight people, the patriarchal men, the male partner, the rich patient, or some rich kid who caused a gruesome car accident but can hide it because his dad would bribe the news channels not to focus on it.


When expression is information freely available, then only will it be free. Or else, it will always remain the dominant discourse, bought and sold by the majority.

Permalink 1 Comment

10 reasons why I like being middle class!

October 24, 2013 at 8:55 am (Opinions) (, , , , , , , )

People often lament how things are really bad for the middle class. They may only be a scratch better economically than the lower class but they have to pretend a lot to keep up the façade. The middle-class is like the silver-medal winner, who does not have the ‘at least I won something’ feeling of the bronze winner, neither the elation of the gold winner. There is the other side that says that the middle class move the economy, and its often what we demand that makes itself available, but isn’t our demand decided by the trends of the upper class?

Amongst all these macro explanations, I have some micro ones, titbits of my experiences, observations and thoughts, that convince me why I’d rather be middle class than anything else.

1. We are equally adept in a mall as well as a bazaar -

Being middle-class, we know where to bargain, but we also know where to be sophisticated. We can enjoy the panipuri as much as the pasta or pizza. We love kurtas just as much dresses. I think this expands the range of our experiences, and gives us a realistic picture of the world, where we know both affluence and austerity.

2. We crowd book sales -

Not to be biased, but for the poor to be at book sales, they need to be able to read, which they cannot because of our bad literacy rates. Further, the rich can afford books directly off expensive book shop chains or from the authors themselves. therefore, all the book-sales and other such literary clearance events are often crowded by the middle class.

3. We are spread over a vast area of careers -

There is the ambitious middle-class youth doing their plus MBAs, steadily wanting to rise and merge into the upper class. While there also the other half who either leave plush jobs or start the career itself in some service or help sector, by working in an ngo or other such organizations. Why can they take the risk of leaving that job and taking to a lower-income-higher-satisfaction one? One reason is that they have seen the suffering of the disadvantaged close at hand, maybe they themselves were so, some time in the past. But more importantly, we do not have a high upper-class standard of living that we constantly need to maintain with a high income. That removes a lot of pressure from our shoulders, thus making it easier to choose alternative occupations.

4. We are the pioneers of change -

The rich are usually too comfortable to bring about change, and the poor too ill-equipped to do so. Therefore, it is the middle class who would become entrepreneurs, lawyers, activists, leaders. We also happen to pay taxes and vote. Not only do we believe in change, we actually work for it. We do the work that the government is supposed to do, in the hope that they will be shamed into doing it. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t.

5. Our values bring us together -

Often, our values are very strong and we bide by them. these values make good homes to go back to, after a hard day’s work. These values also make us feel for other people like us, and immediately stand up in revolt if those people are hurt. We do most organized protestations.

6. Most products are designed with us in mind -

Barring a few exceptional elite products, most are targeted at the middle class, with the sasta aur tikau motto. Thus, ‘mileage kitna deti hai?’ can become a tagline for an automobile, just like the indespenisble and cheap vicco turmeric can become a household product.

7. We love to chat, about the main and the mundane - 

We are constantly talking, in newspapers, on tv, over chai, over coffee, on blogs (look at me!), it maybe arguing against the status quo, or simply a plea for help, or just saying what’s on our mind. All twitter celebs happen to connect with the masses because they lead a middle-class existence just like the masses who can afford phones and access twitter.

8. We like a blend of the old and the new -

We have bachelor parties, but we also have our haldis, mehendis and sangeets. We enjoy puranpoli just as much as pasta. We enjoy old songs as much as the new ones. We enjoy Bollywood music as much as the Beatles. As a class, we keep both new and old, eastern and western traditions and tastes alive. We are the enlightened folks who started the kurta and jeans combo, and a sari-adorning metal-head woman is from among us.

9. We know how to crack a good deal - 

I think you can’t survive as a middle class person if you can’t crack the best deal for yourself. This often extends beyond the finances. We have a knack for choosing that which would maintain our standard, yet we would go a mile further, one more shop, one more relationship, to make sure we get the perfect match, the perfect deal.

10  We have learnt to stay in unity -

Neither do we have the seclusion of the rich, nor the ghettos of the poor. The middle-class Hindu family has to stay next to a middle-class Muslim family, because there isn’t much choice. With time, the awkwardness and the stereotypes break and the kids start to play with each other. With time, it becomes difficult to say which is the Muslim kid and which is the Hindu kid. The kids teach us an important lesson then, and we learn too, because we are the (comparatively) open-minded middle class.


Permalink 6 Comments

A struggle?

October 21, 2013 at 6:16 am (Short Story) (, , , , , , , )

“Sab kuch commercial ho gaya hai yaar”, she says and waves her hand nonchalantly.

Her friend, sitting across from the table, nods solemnly, sipping expensive wine in an expensive glass, a trademark of being in an expensive hotel. The conversation was about art. Or was it about fabric? Did it matter? They were just whiling away their time, splurging the cash that would last them up until the next ‘job’.

Both of them were high profile escorts. Important men would routinely ask especially for their company. Rita, the one who thought that the world is rapidly becoming commercial, was a favourite of one of the important ministers these days, thus the expensive meals so often. The only problem though, was that he was becoming too attached. He was paying the agency money so that they would not ‘employ’ her anywhere else.

But she could not devote herself entirely to him, despite that. This is why she had called her friend to lunch – to tell her about this development. She had met someone. She had gone to accompany a friend who was a struggling actor to one of the auditions. Often these girls make do in between acting jobs by becoming escorts.

When her turn came, she was to give single auditions and group auditions and many other formalities. She said she would take long. Rita had spotted a guy from one of the ‘parties’ and was uncomfortable. She decided to go to a nearby mall and wait for her friend to get done. Rita crossed all the clothes’ shops with only a quick glance. She needed to dress well for her work, but right now, she needed to indulge her mind.

She went into a book shop. Rita had a fantastical idea that knowledge would save her. She would read anything and everything. From trashy romance novels to those discussing the economy or philosophy or religion, she would read anything she could access. She would become a transparent being in this world of words, symbols of her freedom. She would absorb what others had to say, and form an idea only after she was done reading that book or piece. This helped her to acquire a non-judgemental, and to some, an opinionless taste in books.

But she did have her favourites of course. She did not side with a particular opinion, but rather, some ways of expressing opinion opinion appealed to her more than others. How could we describe it? She did not like it when the writer tried to hoard readers by mindlessly introducing sex or some other desirable trait in the book, neither did she like extremely technical writers who would be very dry regarding what they had to say.

She read them all nonetheless, but she loved those the most who could charm the readers simply, without jargon or glamour, or mindless rubbish. It didn’t matter what these writers were saying, were they anti-religion or pro-religion, whether they were feminists or patriarchs. What was important, was this – they way they spoke their mind. Isn’t that how we function in life, too, Rita would think. There are many things that are not good for us, but we do them because they come across as appealing.

One such writer had just released a book, and there was a huge crowd in the bookshop. Rita just remembered this, and cursed herself for not coming sooner. She ran into the bookshop and asked for a copy of his book. Why was this writer special? He never put up his picture, and most people assumed that the current name was not his real name either. His books were about nothing in particular, and everything. It was a commentary on various aspects – on the social world, the political system, romantic love, the efficiency or inefficiency of Greenwich Mean time.. about everything under the sun. Why people liked him was often a mystery to critics. But it was true that his opinions were informed ones, and he was well-read, and if possible, had worked in multiple fields to know so many things so well. But he told them like you would discuss the weather over chai.

As a result, the readers did not feel overwhelmed and reduced to nincompoops. They felt like they were talking to a friend. A wise friend. And because he often jumped topics, yet linked them well, in so obscure way, they never got bored. When his first book came out, the publishing house that supported this venture was ridiculed by the who’s who of Literati. But later they realized that this small little publisher was growing, thanks to the sales by this writer. They were solidly guarded of his identity however. No matter how much the newsfolks tried to dig, by hook or by crook, they would not let go.

As a result, this writer had become a new-age guru of some kind. The critics slowly started to accept that he was influential. Often, they would fight over the genre he wrote. He used fiction too sometimes, at other times it was narration of his own life, or his observations, or hard facts broken down for understanding. Such was the enigma who’s book Rita wanted to buy. However, she saw that there was only one copy on the shelf. She ran to grab it.

However, she saw that the other end of the book was grabbed by someone else. A moderately hairy arm, it was a man. Youngish – late 20s, glasses and a creased shirt, with cotton pants. He looked like a voracious reader. He was about to say something when Rita interrupted him.

“Can you please let me buy this book? I may not be able to go out for several days after today, and this is the largest bookstore and they are running out of copies. Please? I’ll pay you double the amount of the book so that you can buy two copies for yourself, tomorrow? Let me take this one?”

Many things went through the young man’s mind. For instance, what was the logic behind buying two copies? He shrugged it off. Maybe the girl was just flustered. He said he would let her have the book, if she had coffee with him. Rita was taken aback. Nerds had social skills? Lack of opinions meant that Rita still hadn’t challenged the stereotypes in her head. She agreed. It was a small price for letter her have the book.

They discussed about many things, hit it off, and one thing led to another, and they ended up exchanging numbers, fixing a date to meet again. He said he was a product designer. She nodded vehemently, not sure whether this was the right time to ask what products he designed.

“Is that what you told him?” Rita’s friend asked, almost near the end of her wine, gesturing the waiter for a refill. “You told him you’re a struggling actor?”

“Well, am I not? I sleep with important men, just like struggling actors have to do. I put on a face with every new man. And if outside of my knowledge, if one of those creeps makes a video of us fucking, it’d complete the story, would it not? I hardly lied,” Rita said, smiling wryly.

Note – I would like feedback if I should continue this story, with a part 2 or end it here? I have several endings in mind that I could use in part 2, if I were to write it.

Permalink 2 Comments

From Dichotomies to Continuums

September 24, 2013 at 11:59 am (Opinions) (, , , , , , , )

The title may illicit interests of people with a philosophical/physicist bend of mind, and while I take my principles from there, I’m actually talking about something much more commonplace. People.

We were taught intelligence testing during this first semester of Clinical Psych course. And we were repeatedly cautioned : IQ is just a number, a snapshot of the person, do not think that you know the person entirely just by knowing their I.Q. Why? I.Q falls on the bell curve, a continuum, although it has most people around the centre, but there are people towards the other two ends too – subnormal and supernormal intelligence – NORMAL is decided by what MOST people are. But its not as if normal is good and anything else is bad.

But we do think in those ways. We think in dichotomies. I SHOULD get the best. Or, I am a TOTAL loser. Or, He is completely EVIL. A brilliant new therapy we are learning, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, talks about how such rigid, dichotomous thinking leads to stress, depression, and then the less garden variety type things like OCDs, panic, anxiety and so on. At some level, we know these dichotomies are not real. We could be telling ourselves, “Oh, I do good so I would prefer getting good in return, but since I can’t control everything, I may not get good each time, but that’s ok, I’m not a bad person if that happens’.

So many years of gloating about ourselves, pages and pages written, as proof of our versatality, and yet we can’t think in continuums. Why?

1. It’s shorter to think in dichotomies (I’m stupid) than (I’m a worthy person but seemed to have made a mistake in this situation)

2. It’s simple. this is just an extension of the above, but dichotomies create water-tight compartments, where it is easier to place people. Imagine if you had to meet each new person with a blank mind and did not have categories like ‘indian’ ‘woman’ ‘single’ which have their own stereotypes attached. It would be a lot of work! And we are inherently lazy (or cost-efficient, for a better world)

3. It’s the better option during emergency situations. If you broke your arm, its much easier to make instant noodles, rather than some grand, drawn out lamp chops recipe. But her its ok because a broken arm is not a permanent situation (hopefully). But what would happen if you were to eat instant noodles all the time? Not gastronomical fitness, or delight, definitely. Similarly, it is easier to resort to dichotomies when we are too sad or distressed, and we can’t think clearly. But these situations can keep happening over and over. So we have to train our mind to think in continuums so much, that tha becomes the basic, first, primary response.

Are dichotomies only about adjectives? No, they’re about all yes-no categories. Talented-nottalented, smart-dumb, thin-fat, love-hate, single-committed, and even male-female. There are many in-betweens among each of these. There have to be! Because we are humans, and so goddamn versatile. We could not agree on facts, to save our lives, how can we agree on something so subjective as traits?

So let’s try to not only accept the differences, but the degree of differences.

Let’s go from dichotomies to continuums.



Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,644 other followers