TISSues

February 26, 2015 at 9:26 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s been almost two years since I joined TISS as a Masters’ student. The course is about to end. I am not sure if I have really seen the TISS life – since I do not live on campus or even close by. So I have missed out on the hostel/pg stories and the *cough* vibrant night life. But I have been around for my fair share of TISS exposure and I do think I understand its spirit.

When I initially joined, I had put the institute up on a pedestal – because of what I had heard before. However, I have discovered that the place has its own flaws and paradoxes – one of the most glaring ones is how haphazardly masters level research is done by more students than not in a place that prides itself on research and field presence.

Another one was the kind of people I met. I think that just because I met them in TISS, I was expecting a socially conscious and humanitarian person in everyone. That doesn’t happen. Human tendencies are everywhere – in teachers and students. The base emotions of insecurity and jealousy cannot be done away with – even if you are a TISSian.

However, I also know that a lot of what I learnt would not even be accessible to me in a place like Mumbai University. This is not limited to the course content and how it was taught – but the way the two years in this institute have broadened my thinking – to the point that I can no longer have uninformed, one-sided viewpoints or opinions. This was compounded by a training in psychological therapy – which requires further stripping down of your issues and meaning in life – to the point where you are that you know yourself well enough to be secure to enter someone else’s personal psychological world.

I have met a variety of people. I am not going to keep in touch with all of them – but some I am going to treasure. People from diverse walks of life and who amaze you by the amount of good work they have done – as also how humble they are.

However, when I was still a novice, I put these people in some holy light, and would feel really bad if they stopped whatever was required of them professionally to draw out, compartmentalize and have time for themselves. I realize now that it is required – in a field as loaded as ours. You might encounter such grave issues in work that you have to force yourself to stop bothering beyond a point – even if it means drawing up artificial borders. The only difference is, some people still do it better than others and then it hurts less.

I always had a vague dream of ‘giving’ back to the society. Being at TISS has taught me where and how I can concretely do so. It has shown me the gaps where a mental health professional can be useful – community work, policy making, and so on. Even if you follow your ambition and want a comfortable life – it can still be a righteous one.

You learn that giving a fuck about things isn’t something special.It is also nothing which requires a lot of time and effort. But, if everyone did their bit, people who are into slimy stuff would never get away with it as easily as they do. Who can escape a million questions?

I think at the core of it, TISS is a hopeful place. They go all like ‘oh this is a gap in the community? we will create a course to generate professionals and research to understand this better’. And there you are. They are trying to do things their way, and it has its limitations too.

I have probably not lived the proper TISS life, but I think what I’m taking away is the philosophy of it. Being a TISSian is not about the time you spend there, its a way of life.

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Riot at the Strand

February 3, 2015 at 7:01 pm (Uncategorized)

Originally posted on Humari Matargashti:

The world has infinite possibilities. Once money enters the equation though, the possibilities suddenly become rather finite – no matter how noble your intentions.

In a hall full of people, Shaja and Maya braved the great unwashed masses, for one thing only – the books in the room outnumbered the people in the room. Yes, they were at the infamous Strand Book Sale. What would eventually become a yearly tradition, it was the second time Shaja and Maya had ventured to the Sale together; Maya to browse, and Shaja to buy. Obviously, Shaja was in a greater dilemma than Maya. Maya, whose Bengali family had a culture of reading, had only to worry about the space that the books would occupy take up, and when she would get around to reading them. Shaja’s family, on the other hand, didn’t really see the point of buying books, unless they were…

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God Is An Accountant

January 27, 2015 at 8:21 am (Opinions) (, , , , )

We can call life as ambiguous and incalculable as we like, but there is someone sitting up there with a lot of time to kill. And what is it going to do to use that time? Keep meticulous accounts of each and every miserable human being there is.

Yes, if you look at a pan-religion concept, ignoring all the differences, then the reason we are ‘supposed’ or ‘not supposed’ to do certain things, is because God is watching.

If you have ever come across posters or billboards on your way to college which go something like this- ‘(Relevant God’s name) is watching over you and has died for your sins!’, then you know what I mean. For someone who is supposedly the creator of the world, it does come across as nothing more than a petty stalker.
So does my mocking mean that I think that we can get away with doing anything and that no one is really there to see it? Well, yes and no. If I am right about believing in a creator, then that entity made everything – which means many planets like ours, and many solar systems and God knows how many galaxies (pun intended).

However, I believe that if at all anything is wrong (not religiously or morally wrong – because that will depend on the religion or moral code you follow) – if anything, any action, is humanely wrong, that the action itself has negativity – negative energy, and the way it makes you feel would – negative thoughts and guilt – is what would be the measure of wrongness you would induce. Those repercussions itself would make sure that you get your due for doing that.

At this point, of course, we can think of many people who get away doing supposedly wrong things. But this is because we determine the start and end points of their story. ‘So and so did not feel any repercussions within 6 months of doing that, so they have gotten away with it’. But who knows what happened afterwards? What pain they had to face?

As I am losing faith in the formal agents and institutions of justice like Law or Religion may be I am latching on to this concept of poetic justice – maybe very closely resembling karma – as something to get me by. I may be deluded.

But tell me, what seems more plausible – that someone up there is maintaining detailed accounts of our actions and will send us to heaven and hell accordingly as well as give us small spankings or blessings while we are on earth – or the fact that the nature of our actions (negative/positive) are what will determine the consequences they bear on us?

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How to: Feminism of convenience.

December 7, 2014 at 3:26 pm (Opinions) (, , , , , , , , )

Many people I talk to, especially men of my age – from academic or social surroundings, have a very negative view of Feminism. They throw around the word ‘Feminazi’ without knowing it’s implications. I know that every woman who swears by this ideology would be fuming, and so would male feminists (yes – they exist). But I do not know if these men can be blamed entirely for their lack of knowledge.

I could fume about them being misinformed, but all of the responsibility does not lie with them. Their bad view of Feminism comes from men and women who have used the ideology to their advantage but have not stood true to the tenants of it. Instead of shaking my head sadly, I could inform them of what the ideology actually is, just like I have to talk to people about what Islam actually is. That is the one thing that has helped to do away with Islamophobia.

And when you talk to them, they tell you their negative brush with feminism or at least, feminism used as an excuse.The examples will vary from women hitting them and getting away with it because of their being women, to asking being let off from work with periods as an excuse. When it comes to splitting the bill on a date, standing for men’s right to emotional expression, or doing their bit towards a social issue or a workplace, the feminism disappears.

What allows for this misuse of the ideology to happen?

At the root of this is the one word we all hate fervently: Patriarchy.

Patriarchy will see men as strong and never in the victim role. This effectively makes sure that men who are victims of domestic violence or rape are never taken seriously. This makes sure that some women and their families misuse the Dowry Prohibition Act (498a) to meet their goal of getting out of a marriage.

In the short run, these people will get what they want or they will silence the victimized men, but it is sad that the women in these situations do not see the ultimate harm they do to other women by misusing feminism and pro-women laws. They do not see that the thousands of suppressed women will lose a chance of being taken seriously, for the few men and women who do not understand the ideology.

The question that follows after I explain that feminism strives for equal rights of men and women, as well as other genders, is – Why call it Feminism then? Why make it sound pro-woman?

Because of the history. When this movement started, women were the oppressed group, and even today, many women remain oppressed.

Which is why it scares me when young men and women either banish the term or misuse it.

So, to clarify, if you say you are a feminist, you CANNOT:

1) Ask a male partner to ‘man up’ when he is emotional, because feminism propogates the right of men to their emotional sides. If you cannot deal with them being emotional, say it’s something you struggle with, but do not call yourself a feminist and banish it.
2) You cannot look down upon grassroot workers, men and women who are trying to better the status of women, because they do not study in lofty universities like you do.
3) You cannot use it to cheat on your partner or keep sexual history hidden, unless you’re okay with receiving the same treatment.
4) You cannot hit ANYONE, unless it is self-defense. In our skewed society, men are struggling to be recognized at victims and get the required help. Do not add to the burden.
5) You cannot make fun of ANYONE. Men, other women, other genders, or people of different sexual orientation. Feminism says that people are equal regardless of gender, age, color, orientation.
6) You cannot criticize people for what they are wearing, it is their choice if they want to wear a burqa, a bikini, or nothing. You have no right to TELL someone they are oppressed. You can inquire.
7) You cannot enjoy the perks of patriarchy when they benefit you, and use feminism as a defense when that benefits you. Make up your mind and stay on one side. At least do not add to the dilution of the ideology.

Patriarchy, with all it’s flaws, may have some temporary benefits. A man might ‘pamper’ his female partner because that is what traditional gender roles would call for. But before anyone takes part in this indulgence, think – You may be getting an expensive wrist-watch in this transaction, but by accepting this state of affairs, what are you doing for the number of men and women, who have and are still suffering due to the restrains of patriarchy.

Yes, patriarchy affects men too. Their right of emotional expression, of being loving and involved parents is taken away. They are taught from childhood to view women as inferior, and they struggle forever to undo this learning, they get crippled in relationships because of always being taught aloofness. They face problems at work because anger has always been encouraged in them. They have to confirm to typically male roles and activities.

Patriarchy is limiting in the long run. Feminism is a way out of it, but if it is used to escape work when you are on your period, rather than demand health expense to find out why you get this pain and what you can do to manage it – it starts to dilute and succumb to misuse.

Regardless of whether you call yourself a feminist or not, regardless of whether you are a woman or not – before you indulge in the perks of patriarchy or use feminism to your convenience and dilute it, think what it will do to the number of people who are still not living in a world as advantageous or liberated as yours and could actually use a progressive ideology to help themselves.

Make up your mind.

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A little shove.

December 5, 2014 at 4:31 pm (Opinions, Random) (, , , , )

Admiration and appreciation often end up becoming the snuff of the psyche. You get such a kick out of it, that you interact with only such people and only to such an extent, that it is only the praise that flows, no critical observations. And while that acts to maintain the cozy bubble you live in and make you feel adequate, it can also leave you stagnated.

I am glad that i recently became close to someone who, though appreciative of my good qualities, has been consistently encouraging me to venture out of my comfort zone. How this is person is different from others, is that I have not doubt that they respect me highly and have my best at heart, and that makes me receptive to the nudges.

I have taken up two things I did not before: a poetry recital, and going to a litfest, alone. I have never really been great at public performance, so the first one is going to be a challenge. And regardless of what the results be, I’d happy that I ventured out. As for the litfest, I would never go for these things as I have an early curfew time at home, and thought the best of stuff happened late evenings. But now I have decided to attend what I can. As can be guessed, I have never been to such events alone either.

It’s quite exciting! I do not know how these experiences will make me feel, but it sure is heady to jump into them. It’s like some part of me that went demure a long time ago, has buzzed to life again. It’s true isn’t it, the best of people bring out the best in you too?

And as they say, the magic happens outside the comfort zone.

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The lines we draw..

October 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm (Uncategorized)

While I sit here sipping my hari chai (Green tea – snigger snigger) and contemplating the complexity of Govinda’s dance moves, I was thinking back to Walter White’s line from Breaking Bad, when he has this conversation on ‘the lines we draw..’ with Hank.

When we are young, the lines are important for our little minds to not get boggled. But they are meant to be discarded or given up as we grow. Most of the times, the lines are so fucking arbitrary! They are probably the product of our parents’ tired minds as we pestered them with questions about why the balloon flies.

Being human of course, we take the dividing nature of a line so seriously, as if we are going to die with it and take it to our graves. We have put people on this side of the line and that.

A traitor and a soldier are differentiated by the thin thread of who they’re working with.

A legal intoxicant (alcohol) and an illegal one, are decided on the basis of how much money the Government can make – and also the black market profits of a ban.

A person will decide their thinness or fatness based on certain millimetres and kgs.

Hell, even sanity and insanity are a number game. 4 out of 9 criteria? Sane. Ooh, 5 out of 9? Sorry, insane.

The stupidest thing is to apply the lines to people. Friends, enemies.. think, who has the potential to hurt you more? Probably a friend, because you trust them that much. Yet, all the energy you put into hating.. that is for a.. wait for it.. enemy!

So Thick. Like a thick line.

Anyway.

Lines have another quality. The quality to continue. Across a page – across pages. Across things, people, and across centuries.

It’s time we grew up to absorb this quality of lines over the former.

Besides,

Who’s line is it anyway?

Think.

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Microscopic, Telescopic and Pedagogic.

September 21, 2014 at 10:22 am (Uncategorized)

It’s been a long time since i updated the blog. The reason for the absence is that I had nothing of consequence to tell, and unlike Kapil (of Comedy Nights fame), i do not believe in yapping away, just for the sake of it. So, then, what was I doing while I was away? I was looking. Looking at different things differently.

Our naked eye, as sensual as that sounds, kinda sorta lacks this very important layer of stuff – called perspective. That stuff needs to be built, often with trial and error. Microscopic viewing tells you about the little things happening around you, that you might not otherwise notice, unless you focus on it. Telescopic viewing will tell you of the things happening far away that you think have no impact on you, but you seen realize otherwise. But neither lenses will tell you if you are standing in the way of a speeding truck. You need your ears for that. You need to turn around. Also, run?

And learn. Don’t use your lenses in the middle of a highway where drunk drivers are going to be on a high.

It’s not only about changing lenses, but learning to use the one that’s most useful at one point. If you believe like I do, that there is no one reality, and its all a matter of mutual construction, then there is no question of right or wrong way of looking at things, just useful and helpful, or otherwise.

Certain events led me to believe that if I did not get surprised or shocked easily, that makes me cold and unemotional. I also believed that if I can’t give great hugs and tell people i feel affection for them, then i’m cold and inexpressive. But i realize that I could be just a more Zen person who takes things as they come. I also realize that I suck at saying but I win at doing. I make things for people. Cakes, bookmarks, paintings. I do them favors.

Had i not switched my lens, I would needlessly try to change a harmless trait.But at the same time, it has shown me the importance of reaching out. In my own way, I need to let people know I care. Why will they reciprocate otherwise?

And, as imperfect as I am, I do have strengths. I can beat myself up for other peoples’ strengths, but that is like wanting to have someone else’s blood type or something. I need to relax. Let Zen takeover. And get the hell out of the way of that truck.

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Hope, the lizard on the wall, and other silly things.

July 31, 2014 at 5:36 pm (Uncategorized)

I want you to imagine a snail. Yes, slicky thing with an oystershell on the back. Yeah. Imagine it moving. Does not happen very fast, does it? That, my friends, is also the pace of change.
And then, imagine this snail as having a rather lazy personality (that IS possible!). I guess Mr. Snail would be even slower now, because they are simply not motivated to move, yes?
THAT, is the pace of social and psychological change.
It’s all very amusing if all the contact you have with causing social or psychological change is getting the government to make international sports brands cheaper or only to the extent of you reading this blog (which is quite likely, because very few nutheads like me choose to work in this field).

But, if, by the divine occurences of chance and the mysterious ways in which our stars work (pretty, but long dead), if, you happen to be a social worker, a mental health professional, or pretty much anything in the array of social science related work, then the news and social media of each day are the source of major facepalming each morning. So much so, that I’m sure my face would have caved in by the time I’m old.

But more facepalming is elicited by these two-legged and two-handed beings that walk around, professing the existence of something between their ears, which, has probably shrunk due to under-utilization – oh yes, fellow beings, people, humans.

The extraordinary stupidity and silence on the part of others we share this planet with is so astounding, that you honestly wonder why they had to make harming others a crime.
And so, you think, ignorance is not a bliss. It’s a fucking high. You just don’t know shit that would make you as angry as Loki (though, not as hot though still).

And then, just as you’re huffing and puffing with anger and releasing bad vibes with the frequency with which our politicians release rape culture promoting comments, you look at something swishing from one end to another. A rather amusing sight. No, I’m not talking about the Hand of Time. That’s best left to Cosmos and Through the Wormhole.

I mean, a fluffy something. My cat’s tail. Actually, both my cats’ tails. There is this window in my sitting room, outside of which there roams a lizard. The daredevil. He comes this close to entering the house and then goes away. He mostly does it to tease the cats. There is no chance that my cats could reach for it. he is away, and fast. The fall outside the window rather steep.

Yet, each day they sit there, swish their tails in excitement as they see him, and often sleep in that watching pose, get up and start their vigil again. They even have lizard dreams. (Related – what is the content of a cat’s unconscious mind?)

But, as i often learn life lessons from my cats (don’t give a shit about haters, claw them),I learnt another – hope. They will probably never catch the lizard. But their excitement makes them try. And they like it. That should be it.

As it is, life is like going to party you were not invited to, or rather a class you go to just for your attendance. But somewhere in between you realize, I might as well participate if I’m here, for the heck of it. Because I’m not anywhere else. If life is just some mega time-pass, might as well go out shrieking happy like a hyena.

So, even though there are women claiming they don’t need feminism on social media (not realizing that this right to opinion comes through the feminist movement) and a chauvinist bigot fighting with me in the comments section of the page try to prove that there is no patriarchy in India (yeah, that. In his words ‘There is no the patriarchy exist in India’), I nod my head and remind myself of all the good things, like The Ugly Indian group cleaning up Bangalore and reclaiming public spaces. I still keep fighting with that guy in the comments section nonetheless.

So, yes, life has idiocy (like oversprinkled salt), but it also has cats. And hope. And both are quite synonymous really.

batman,design,joker,poster,illustration,funny-095dc2c655508f9d638d80bd8c1f6bf9_h

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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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