Friday, December 28, 2012

Damn you, Woman!

In this country famous for Gandhi and a monument a lovesick emperor built in memory of his wife, being a woman is akin to being a contestant in the Survivor series. The only difference? If she survives, s he gets to win an opportunity to live with dignity.

From age two till she coughs her last, she is a potential victim for men blinded by lust and rage. In a nation where men outnumber women, frustration outnumbers contentment, failure outnumbers success, cries of anguish outnumber sounds of laughter, corrupt outnumber the honest – being human becomes the first casualty. Someone somewhere is invariably waiting to trample upon her self-esteem. In this struggle for power and survival of the fittest – the underprivileged, the fairer sex, the principled have to fight the hardest. They don’t always succeed. But they know they must never give up.

She knows she must never give in. Because if she does, she will be doomed to a life of servitude.

It helps if she is born with silver cutlery in her mouth. It certainly helps if her family wields wealth and power and insulates her from reality.

But God forbid if she nurtures aspirations of being independent and seeks out a life of her own - she is clearly being “adventurous”. If she’s foolish enough to walk the streets or travel in buses, she is meant to be groped and pinched. If the man gets lucky, he even gets to rape her. And for the sake of brotherhood he’s even willing to share his booty with his friends. It’s tough to let go of sharing and caring values he has imbibed since childhood.

There are certain dos and don’ts a woman must adhere to if she’s about to get raped. She must accept her fate gracefully. She should stop being an unreasonable bitch and swallow that feeling of revulsion like a bitter pill.

Simply put, she must surrender if she values her life and intestines.

God forbid, if she dares to act normally – kicks, claws, scratches and screams – she ends up being a vegetable on a ventilator for the rest of her life. Just pray that she dies, so that all those years of joys, accomplishments, the identity she carved for herself, doesn’t get wiped off by a cruel twist of fate and she’s simply reduced to a label - “a rape victim”. As if she never had a name, a life before she chose to get assaulted.

Her most horrific moment gets splashed all over national dailies, becomes fodder for rising TRP’s, and is brandished as an issue that political parties use to settle scores with. She ceases to be human.

Some will google for pics of her mauled vagina, others will call her a braveheart for having the will to live and a few will feel her anguish and cry for her fate. Women who take to the streets demanding justice for her will be dismissed as dented and painted. The police will smirk, and give candid views on women who file rape charges, passing them off as prostitutes who didn’t get paid.

Every time a woman gets mauled and assaulted, it is not just a travesty of her fate, because what follows is much worse. The shame, the ridicule, the disbelief she has to put up with doesn’t let her heal. Ironically it’s the perpetrator who walks off with all the sympathy – poor boy! He couldn’t help it. It was she who tempted him.

There will be men who will be man enough to stand up to this injustice, get beaten up by bullies because they are simply hindrances to their act of pleasure. Men who will hang their heads in shame on behalf of those for whom machismo is a misunderstood concept and for whom women are ‘objects’ waiting for their stamp of ownership.

For every brutal assault on her dignity, it is she who has to pay by forsaking her freedom. She will be asked to cover up, ordered to stay home and forsake her dreams for the sake of her honour and her family’s. The more she tries to take flight, the more they will try to pull her back.

While those men will continue to strut the streets looking to prey on another girl foolish enough to believe in herself.

Damn you girl! Your parents should have killed you the day you were born, like so many others do.

But they didn’t. They chose for you to live.

Don’t give in, don’t give up. Because struggle today is for the sake of a better tomorrow. A tomorrow, where you can be what you want to be, without a hint of apology.

RIP Amanat, may you have a better life next time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Magic of Realism

I am a huge fan of realistic cinema. So committed I am to the magic of realism that I don’t mind paying big bucks to watch a man with a lota and foul intent, getting chased by the news-hungry media. And I sigh with relief and start munching my popcorn noisily when he finally gets to relieve himself, with only the tall grass protecting his modesty.

As I get back home, I shake my head in disbelief. Man, that pooping scene was so intense! I could almost feel my bowels crying with ecstasy.

During my growing up years, my parents made sure that my brother and I were exposed to nothing but the best. While my parents snuck off to watch Sholay, we the helpless were left behind to spend the evening, trying to kill each other in the most painful way. Of course we managed to survive to watch classics by the likes of Satyajit Ray, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Sai Paranjpye.

With such an intense grooming, wisdom had no choice but to walk ahead of my years. While my lowly friends watched festival circuit movies (read art house cinema) for the sex, I would watch it for the three intense lines that the characters exchanged with each other in Spanish, while rowing for two hours and ten minutes in a picturesque lake.

My brother rebelled and dedicated the rest of his life to watching just action movies and Angelina Jolie.

But me, I was getting hungrier and hungrier for stark reality. No happy endings, no colourful bonanzas, no loud celebrations for me. I wanted my character to seek the meaning of life from the lone sheep in the deserts of Mongolia. Any hanky-panky that the man might have wanted to do with the sheep was snipped off by Edward-Scissorhands, whom we otherwise refer to as Censor Board of India.
I was content with the sad, hungry and the angry.

Until I moved to a country where censorship is as alien as a Swiss bank account to an Indian politician.

Now before I proceed, let me clarify that realistic cinema is different from Art house cinema. Art house cinema is like the masterpieces hung at Tate’s Gallery of Modern Art. Nobody understands it but everyone is too scared to trash it. Realistic cinema on the other hand, is reality that our mundane lives often miss out on. It’s not every day you see Gangs of Wasseypur playing out in real life or discover that your soft-spoken neighbour is actually a wannabe terrorist!

Thankfully none of the characters catch a plane to Istanbul, Switzerland or London to profess their love with 20 extras doing dhinchak in the background. I think the politically correct word is backup dancers. Although I still don’t know why they are called that! Are they expected to take the lead actress’s place if she passes out?

Coming back to the point, away from the clutches of censorship, I was finally getting to watch unedited versions of reality and art. Naked hairy asses and no I’m not talking about the four legged variety. Men kissing men, the kind where you can feel the tongue touching your tonsils …and most importantly, close-up shots of men and women of all sizes, barfing like it’s nobody’s business.

It’s not as if I’m averse to barfing, but there’s a right way to do it - quietly in a corner, away from prying eyes. But no Sir, not in these movies! The actors will make a big show of it, to let reality sink in like the Titanic. On the carpet, inside the car, on some hapless man - just like kindergarten kids, for whom puking and peeing is just another act of spontaneity.

Irrespective of whether you are watching French, German or American cinema, the movie is incomplete without the lead character’s puke being splashed all over your screen in all its vividness.

I mean, if I really wanted to watch men and women puke, I’ll just walk around in any of the hospitals in my vicinity. If I wanted to watch someone else’s butt plastered all over my screen, I’ll watch porn, dammit!

And I have observed that most of the characters prefer doing all their talking while sitting on the shit-pot. For heaven’s sake, the least you can do is shut the door while you exchange intense bytes of wisdom!

Sadly, these movies come with no prior warning. Just a – this movie may contain adult themes. I refuse to see what’s so adult about letting out/ exchanging your bodily fluids in the most grotesque manner! Enough to put you off sex for a lifetime. Little wonder that most European nations have such a low growth rate.

Learn something from Indian cinema, you fools! We show how men and women can have babies by simply running around trees and kissing each other behind giant sunflowers.

Little wonder we are a population of 1.22 billion and growing.

Things have come to such a point that I have started craving movies that show picture-perfect characters living out picture-perfect lives! So guess what, this Diwali, I actually went ahead and watched Jab Taak hai Jaan! Such a simple story line…boy meets hottie... hottie falls for the boy who’s always trying to sing like Rabbi Shergil…hottie leaves God for boy….boy goes off to Ladakh, grows a stubble and starts defusing bombs…and it goes on and on and on, till you wake up to discover hottie is singing songs with her lover boy again. And not once did I have to put up with SRK having trouble digesting his dinner! Phew!

Damn you realism, I’ve had enough of you. I’d much rather watch larger than life characters in all their Technicolour glory.

Isn’t it why we watch movies - to evade reality?

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Please get your Math right!

Image courtesy -
Of late, I have been reading a lot of articles hailing the 50’s and 40’s as the new 20’s. It makes me feel less depressed about aging. It makes me feel even better that so many researchers are spending time and actually getting paid for churning out such astounding findings. The truth is, they are simply catering to the market of the youth obsessed. Had youth not been an obsession, that jar of anti-aging cream, promising you the sun and the moon and a wrinkle free skin wouldn’t have existed….That surgeon promising you an uplifting experience, couldn’t have afforded that chalet in Appenzel!

I miss that past, where looking your age was not considered a crime. Your Mom was perfectly okay with her little protruding tum and made no efforts to detoxify, fold herself into half and raise her toes to the ceiling, to get her long lost figure back. You thought your parents were cool, not because they looked good and squeezed their bums in Armani pants, but for the things they did. Your Mom didn’t try to fit into your clothes and pretty much did what she liked, without the accompanying guilt trips. If she wanted to feel young, she simply reached out for a bottle of Godrej hair-dye.

Alas, her daughter is living a present where not looking your age is not an exception but the norm. We read motivational soliloquies about how proud we are to embrace every new candle that props up on our birthday cake and then preen inwardly when someone expresses outrage that you are actually above 40! As if living beyond 40 is a crime. But…but…how is it possible that you have an 18 year old daughter! Of course, you are tempted to retort that you picked her right off the supermarket shelf. But, you must act your age.

I must act my age, not look a day above 30, claim that its love and Dove that keeps my skin smooth as a baby’s bottom and pretend that I’m aging gracefully. Funny thing is, my male counterparts are allowed to flaunt their paunch in their tight tees, have bags under their eyes big enough to fit my wardrobe, crack juvenile jokes and still pass off as distinguished. But I’m still expected to have a waist, bottom and energy of a 30 year old! And if my waist tries to embrace a tyre or two or my eyes dare to droop, I’ll be lovingly called a hag!

Well, I’m not denying that the hag in me feels great to be in her 40’s. She’s past the nappy, school projects stage. Her daughter can pretty much take care of herself. She can finally stop pretending to be a domestic goddess and not feel guilty for not cooking three course meals. She can speak her mind and be accepted for what she has become.

Faulty, precocious, moody as hell – but everyone around you has learnt to grin and bear with it.

All your life you were busy being the daughter, wife and the Mom. Now is the time, when you can finally be the woman you always wanted to be.

And just when have finally reached that stage of acceptance of all our flaws and strength, comes this crap hailing the 40’s as anything but 40. Why, may I ask is it so shameful to feel and look your age? Why burden those scores of women terrified of losing their taut skin and tauter bums at the altar of aging, with expectations of looking good past their expiry date. Let’s face it, at 40 fucking four, my knees hurt when I walk in heels for too long. I wake up looking like a racoon after a night of partying harder than I work. I still may not need specs, but my eyes hurt after too much reading.

I may not look my age but I certainly feel it.

So why do we have to bear with these unrealistic expectations? Will people love me less if I sprout a few more greys around my temple? Will my friends make fun of me because I have too many lines under my eyes? Of course not! And if they do, they don’t deserve your love and companionship.

So next time when someone tries to prep you up with the 50’s is the new 20’s, spiel, ask him/her to just shut up! We have learnt enough math to know, 40 is not = 20 and 50 can never be = to 20.

Aging is not a crime but making you feel guilty about it, is.

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Shrinking heart

As a kid I was never short of excuses to cry and my favourite one was having to say goodbye. I hated that good times were not meant to last. Those days, good times had nothing to do with spending your money. It was all about spending time with people you loved. Come evenings, come holidays and we’d head out to meet friends or our outstation relatives. Sundays meant grand family reunions or early morning picnics. So what if it was the seedy Budha Jayanti Park, where behind every bush there was a couple furiously making out.

We could never have enough of loving, caring and sharing. Just like a Karan Johar movie. Except for the fact, that the ladies in our family didn’t break into an impromptu dance, in our 14000 square feet living hall. Those were the days of Garden Vareli and not saris that had every conceivable pattern of sequins and coloured stone planted on it.

Every inland letter dropped in our rickety letter box, was a harbinger of joy – a birth, wedding, or a relative writing about his plans to visit us next month. I would spend the next few weeks in fevered anticipation while my Mom would start stressing about the added chores. She was a working woman. But at that time I was too young to understand her and would get angry with her for being such a spoilsport.

My definition of Utopia was a summer break spent with my cousins, sucking mangoes stolen from the store-room, trying to frighten each other with ghost stories, running all around the house, toppling furniture, screaming like banshees – while our Moms gave us disapproving looks. Seven of us huddled together on the bed, the fan creaking noisily overhead, barely caring about the heat, as we chattered noisily.
My biggest fear was getting separated from my cousins. Oh, how tears would flow when we had to bid adieu.

Look how age changes perspective. My cousins have now been reduced to Facebook acquaintances, whose moments of happiness are now a bunch of shared pics. I look at these grown-up men and women and wonder if we lost more than just our youth. When we meet during grand family celebrations (read weddings) my daughter sees her cousins as just a bunch of annoying kids. It breaks my heart to think that she will not have any stolen mango memories. That she will not shed tears for cousins she never got to know.

I hate to admit that the thought of guests gives me the heebie-jeebies. I turn into my Mom, my mind focussed on the inconveniences rather than the joy of a reunion. Only this time I completely relate to what she felt!

What kind of a lifestyle dictates that we spend our weekends at malls and need to fix up dates to meet our friends? Where neighbours are strangers who exchange pleasantries in the building lift! Avoiding social contacts as we forage for warmth and acceptance from the online world?

Are we heading towards a lifestyle where we have to pay others to listen to our woes, rather than seeking help from the ones we love?

Makes me wonder, if we are becoming too selfish for our good! We have become so possessive about our private space that those who dare to reach out are seen as intruders.

When I had moved to Gurgaon, I thought I would finally be able to meet like-minded people and make more friends. That didn’t happen. When I moved to Brisbane, I thought I wouldn’t make any friends and had mentally prepared myself for loneliness. Guess what? I have made more friends in just three months, than I did in the eight years I spent in Gurgaon.

I think I know why. Thrown out of our comfort zones, away from the cushion of family and friends, we have been reaching out, knowing that the friends we make here will help us tide over the feeling of alienation. I smile more often as I run around doing my errands and when someone smiles back, it lights up my heart like a 60 watt bulb.

I am not ashamed of feeling needy anymore. My shrinking heart is blooming again and it feels so good.
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

To You, My Dear Child

This is what I wrote for

Image courtesy - Google images

To You, My Dear Child

My dear child,

When I first cradled you in my arms, I couldn’t believe that something so perfect could be borne out of love. The hours of sweat and anguish of unimaginable pain vanished in seconds as I looked into your unseeing eyes. And then you cried, so hard and so long that the nurses were convinced I was torturing you in secret.

That’s when I realized - motherhood is not for the fainthearted.

For over a year my life became an endless cycle of burps, poop and pee. I would sleep fitfully dreaming of clouds that looked like nappies. I looked like a cow, felt like a cow and smelt of curdled milk. It was as if the planetary positions had shifted and I had become a satellite helplessly revolving around you.

You evoked the strangest feelings in me. I was so afraid for you and was willing to go to any lengths to protect you from this harsh world. Anyone who tried to harm you became my worst enemy.

It was you and me against the rest of the world.

For you I let go of my dreams, my vanity, and girlhood, not out of duty but out of love. When you looked at me with eyes brimming with love, every inch of me tingled with joy… When you held my fingers for the first time…your gurgling laughter…the first time you called me Maa… these became the most precious moments of my life.

Of course you don’t remember the first day when I sent you off to school! The sleepless nights I spent in anxiety, worrying how my baby will cope in the sea of unknown. Waiting anxiously at the gate for you to come back…Scooping you up in my arms, nuzzling my head in your warmth….The dawn of awareness that I needed you as much as you needed me.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

“Eiee Didi, Dey Na!”

Glad2bawoman an online media company, is a community for women who care. With over 69000 members, they promise to become even bigger and better. Presenting this very interesting anecdote by Rituparna Mukherjee, editor

That’s Bengali for “Give it to me, won’t you?” Sounds suspicious, doesn't it? Well it would have sounded infinitely more dodgy had you been in my place on a crowded Garia-BBD mini bus, fighting claustrophobia while trying to ignore the enthusiastic clapping of three boys-dressed-as-girls.

Trams have been my saviour. They are empty, relatively quick and comfy. But today I had to take a bus. It always gets extremely crowded post Jeevan Deep and this is where three thin, dark, promiscuously dressed androgynous individuals leapt onto the moving bus cackling with laughter, screaming and shouting. At first I thought them to be boisterous girls - I have been around today’s teens for a good two years during my tenure as a teacher and trust me they are all about exhibitionism. Most of them at least. They have no qualms about yelling in a public place, attracting attention with their revealing clothing and generally creating a commotion. But then, once these people were right in front of me, I could see they were eunuchs, or pretending to be to make a quick buck- one never knows these days.

They immediately established that they were going to make money off the people in the bus. Started clapping and gyrating in front of the passengers, using terribly foul language, touching them etc. The usual. And since I was in the first seat next to the window, I was the first to be targeted, of course. They targeted the man next to me first. Clapping in his face, touching his hair, poking at his shirt, they made loud comments about how he was wearing a nice shirt etc. Told him if he didn't give them money they would do the unmentionable. Harrassed him to no end till he gave them 30 Rupees- for the three of them.

I usually ignore them. Sometimes that works. When it doesn't I get rid of them with a tenner. I don't want to be flashed or harassed - hence I think it is far better I give them a token amount and they go their way. I was doing a pretty good job of ignoring them by staring out of the window when one of them touched my arm. I looked at him/her and something made me smile. I didn't feel anger or annoyance...I looked at the very boyish face painted with lipstick and dark smears of eyeliner and I felt a mixture of sympathy and glee. Glee isn't the right word. What I mean is I found them funny so I smiled. The girl/boy was taken aback - and returning my smile asked very politely for money. "Eiee didi, dey na!"

“Eiee Didi, Dey Na!”

This, after the rude words and clapping meted out to the other passengers, was interesting to say the least. Still smiling politely and in chaste polite Bengali I told him/her "I’m sorry, I only had the bus fare. I have one rupee left but how can I give you just that?”

Look I am a Gemini, I can sound extremely convincing while rolling my eyes inwardly, which is what I was doing. My sympathy for them had been turned into irritation - I am not a patient person and I was in a noisy crowded place with a headache. My sympathy has its limits. However, my saccharine sweet exterior worked. The boy/girl looked at me and raised a pencilled brow, saying in rough Bengali, "Eiee Didi, I know you are lying. Fine, let it be – hey your bag is very pretty – I like it!”

I smiled again and looked out of the window. Soon a great commotion began behind me, a woman had tried to stand up for herself and upon being refused, the boys/girls had predicted her first child would be born dead. Sigh.

So amidst frantic yells of "Who do you think you are? God?" and "I will bash your face in with my fist” and other expletives and foul language, I decided I had enough and got up to leave. These individuals had now cleverly blocked the exit and were swearing away to glory - in Bengali and I found the situation most unbearable. Everyone in the bus would get that treatment, they declared, no one would be allowed to leave.

I was wondering how to get off the bus, simultaneously fighting a wave of panic at being blocked in by so many people who were yelling and screaming as well as three nut jobs who were clapping to add to the din when one thought crossed my mind- that my very proper boyfriend – who hates swearing of any kind, especially in the vernacular, would have died a slow death had he been with me. Like most men in India, he is also terrified of eunuchs and loathes their very existence with a passion. And I smiled for a second imagining his horror at the filthy Bengali, the crowd and the boys/girls. And Yay! The boy/girl right in front of me saw me smile, thought it was for him/her, smiled back and said - "Oh you want to get off the bus – hey move, move! Let her off! Eiee Didi, I really like your bag!”

I ignored him/ her. But now, now I was really smiling - a very broad smile - as I jumped off the bus that had slowed down considerably. A smile had really saved the day-twice! I am going to smile more from now on - it evidently is a good way to get things done. With my smile and my cheap purple cheap jhola, I avoided being harassed and threatened with Bengali cuss words thrown in for good measure. If i had reacted with angry words and attitude, I would have been treated the same way as the other passengers. Instead, I had been let off the bus. A smile goes a long way. ‘Tis true!

Courtesy - Google Images

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Gift of Gifting

Courtesy -
Whoever said “love don’t cost a thing” was clearly bullshitting and challenged in the grammar department. Whoever tried to console us with “it’s the gesture that counts and not the credit card bill” was in reality trying to console his surly lover, who refused to talk to him after he gifted her a plain gold ring.

If you love someone, be ready to spend. It’s even better if you go bankrupt while trying to win her over.

Girls are simple creatures. Look into her eyes, call them limpid pools, tell her that her beauty makes you asthmatic, her thoughts give you insomnia…Make sure you look intense, sigh deeply and tell her how hopeless you are without her. Love is about surrender. Convince her that you are ready to follow her like an obedient puppy and rest assured she’ll be whimpering – what have I done to deserve you. See! How simple it is?
To seal the deal, ply her with gifts. Start with cute knick-knacks, move on the mined metals and settle for polished carbon. There are a 1001 ways you can make a girl happy.

Depending on how much, how little, how long, how short you intend to love her, you can adjust your budget accordingly. If you are surviving on Bank of Mummy and Daddy, you head straight for Archies and buy cute lil mugs, teddies or baubles for her. Chocolates make her happy, a pretty clutch will make her happier and if you are really desperate to impress, gift a bottle of perfume. Stoles, scarves, hair accessories, tops, kurtas, tees, make-up, flowers, watch, gadgets, fancy jewellery…phew! You don’t even have to think for five minutes before you head off for the store, to pick-up something special for her. All you need is a big heart and a bigger bank balance.

Plus you are never short of occasions to make her happy. The first anniversary of jab we met. I just got my promotion, she just got hers, her birthday, her cat’s birthday, the-weather-is-so-divine day, Valentines’ Day and if you are married – every week is an occasion to celebrate! And the icing on the cake is the mind-boggling variety of presents you can buy for her.

And if you want to piss her off really badly, buy her kitchen appliances. See! How simple it is to annoy her?
Now let’s do a role-reversal. What do you buy for your man to make him happy? Let’s consider our options. Shirts in checks, stripes or plain, tees in navy, green, white, black or grey, perfumes/after shaves, wallets, belts and THAT’S IT! He doesn’t wear make-up, can’t buy cute hair-accessories for him, he hates pink, jewellery makes him feel like a sissy, the watch he prefers is too damn expensive, he’d rather buy his gadgets himself, he doesn’t read books but journals and the last time he wrote with a pen was in college! So, by the time you’ve been together for a year, you have exhausted every single option.

So, what do we do? We go the extra mile to make him feel special. We fast for his long life, cook for him and his friends, dress up and slip into painful stilettoes for his sake, cry and sometimes even laugh for him. The laughing at him stage starts once you’ve been together for decades. While all he needs to do is go to the Coach store and pick up that pretty clutch in jade!

Now do you agree how simple it is to make women happy and how tough it is to make him squeal in delight when he unwarps his present? Now do you realize why women complain of a headache?

And despite all this, they have the temerity to complain that it’s so difficult to make a woman happy?

Damn it, just buy her a nice, thoughtful gift that she can show-off to her friends!