Wednesday, 16 October 2013

As the rain and gale force winds raged around us, the Idol of the Goddess Durga, stood defiant, her serene expression a curious contrast to the tumultuous storm raging outside...... 

Dear Reader, for the people living in the eastern part of India, October is a very special month. The nine day autumn festival is celebrated here with all the accompanying pomp. It is said that the Goddess Durga comes down from the heavens on the 6th day to mingle with us mortals and returns on the 10th. Her departure is marked by the burning of effigies of the feared demon whom she vanquished. This day marks the triumph of good over evil.

The above description is the philosophical explanation for the days we spend just having a roaring good time in the company of friends and family. This year however, we saw something that most of us have never witnessed and hope to never witness again. The eastern coast of India was hit by the Cyclone Phailin, which made landfall smack in the middle of the festival. Needless to say it was not something we had ever experienced.

The past year has been quite rough for Indians, our society has witnessed various political, economic and more importantly, social upheavals. To a philosophical mind the current scenario can be likened to the storm that raged during the Durga Pujas and our moral compass, the idol of the goddess that stood defiantly against the cyclonic winds. To a believer, it was as if the goddess was indeed battling the evil around us....

Something, that the shrunken old priest said to me when I expressed my doubts about the safety of the idol during the storm stuck to me as deeply poignant...he said " This cyclone is just the evil in our society, this year has been full of bad things, more than other years, the goddess is not just an idol...she is the goodness in all of us..she is our conscience, which prevents us from giving in to the evil taking root in our hearts...This cyclone will pass with nary a scratch on us..the clay idol will not fall against these strong winds....because of the irrefutable fact that good always vanquishes evil...."Now dear reader, I am not really religious, but these words have managed to stay with me.

It's still drizzling and the festival has come to an end. The streets are now filled with the sound drum beats as  it is safe for the people to come out to bid farewell, and immerse the Goddess in the river. The idol may be gone but we retain the joy of the days spent rejoicing and celebrating family and community and we are also left with the hope that we, as a society will survive all these storms..because there is still something left to fight for.  

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Rapist, Sexual Offender, Pervert, Peeping- Tom, Misogynist Ass etc etc , You have the right to remain silent...SO SHUT UP!

"New Delhi: A group of stand-up comedians known as 'AIB' has come up with a satirical video in the wake of recent sexual assault cases in India. The group consists of Tanmay Bhat, Gursimran Khamba, Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya. Bollywood actress Kalki Koechlin and VJ Juhi Pandey have acted in the video. The campaign is called 'It's Your Fault', and it showcases different dimensions of a victim's life."  courtesy IBN7 

Dear Reader, take a look at the video above, what do you think? Also try reading some of the comments below on the page, do you find them offensive? 

This video- campaign recently went viral in social media, it features a prominent actress and a popular VJ and is a satire on the current climate regarding Rape and other sexual offences in India. It is a reactionary piece, done in a clever way to show that as certain public figures in India opine, violence against women being "fault of the victim" is utter rubbish!

If you are not familiar with the social milieu of the Subcontinent, let me explain, there are those, generally ignorant public figures, oily, self serving politicians, self- styled godmen/ community leaders and other blithering idiots who believe that the victim of violence/ rape/ acid- attacks and other brutality must have done something to suffer such a fate.

After every incident (especially high profile ones like the Dec-16 Delhi Gang Rape Case) they rush to release statements about how they deplore the incident, Yet how, somehow, the victim- that poor unfortunate girl, could have escaped such a fate, if she had only followed the 'RULES'...Oh how they wish the poor....... unfortunate....girl....should have done this....or done that... Basically shifting the blame to the Victim! 

Oh yes! the fault was her's you see, she was out late at night, or she was with a man, or why was she not with a man?...unprotected, or she was wearing obscene clothes, makeup etc basically she was asking for it...What could the rapist do, but oblige? 

Some examples of this are especially bizarre, Asaram- a self styled godman, and himself a multiple times sexual offender and child molester, 'genuinely prayed for the Dec 16 victim' yet opined that 'when they came to rape her (instead of defending herself) she should have called them BHAIIYA ( hindi word for brother) and they would have backed off, after all why would a brother brutally rape and then shove a rod up your vagina?'

Yes my dear reader! your eyes do not deceive you, want another example? Well prepare to be amazed, Khap Panchayats illegal community collective courts (they are not sanctioned by law) say that rapes happen because the ' young people eat foreign food like chowmein! Or talk on cellphones, or wear jeans, or are educated!' In fact they are of the opinion that girls should be married at a young age before 'they get corrupted by all these UN-INDIAN trappings, then they will be leashed by their husbands whose work is to keep their women-folk under control and if they abuse, rape, torture etc, they have the right because women are their property!'

Shocking isn't it? But oh I am coming to the really good one...brace yourself... Ahem... Every time an incident is reported some of us, the principled bastion of morality- The Common Man- believe, that surely the perpetrators are not one of us...that they are, migrants, uneducated, of a different religion, caste/class, state etc etc....   

The above falderal is only a fraction of the insanity that one is subjected to after every incident, the sheer callousness of public figures has left many disgusted at the behaviour of these honourable men' . Vote hungry politicians rush in to placate their constituencies, publicity hungry bollywood actors (indeed, some especially removed from reality), delusional community leaders, dogmatic godmen all try to vociferously make their unwanted, ignorant and idiotic opinions heard in various news channels, who in turn milk a heinous incident for all it's worth. The resulting cacophony is so unbearable for some that they switch off their TV's to avoid being disgusted, throwing up and in my case smash the screen into pieces (as if that would stop them)!  

If this isn't enough then there are the so called 'crusaders for justice'. In a previous post- the Rape of Innocence, I had expressed my anger at  " various activists and women's groups (some of whom are publicity hungering opportunists) " . There are also the well meaning, yet misguided media campaigns that end up doing more harm than good. Some of which like the MARD ( Men Against Rape & Discrimination) just miss the point entirely. They mean to say that a real MARD (macho- man in Hindi), has a duty protect women.This noble yet misguided campaign, supported by many celebrities, perpetrated patriarchy in it's own way. Many celebrities (especially male) from bollywood, TV, sports etc spoke out in support, but somehow it smacked more of self publicity and the magnanimous support of influential men to the women's movement, than a genuine attempt to redress social evils.


And then there were some women's group themselves, that perpetrated norms of patriarchy and unknowingly, kowtowed to regressive social dogma by campaigns like ' ABUSED GODDESSES' a campaign that went viral. While the images of abused Hindu goddesses, worshipped for strength, wisdom and prosperity were shocking, appalling and disturbing; in their own way, it unwittingly encouraged the goddess vs slut myth. 
Or this one below, the image of a woman with a anguished eyes one of which is bruised visible behind a burqa. 


Many practical and sensible advocates and supporters of these campaigns say, that they are meant for the consumption of the masses, who don't understand or have no interest in the sexual politics and debate about the regressive standards and stagnation of the society. I think, that they do have a valid point, however I must  in turn, point out that social change can only be brought about if the the regressiveness of  patriarchy is addressed, and efforts are made to abolish it. 

There should be a debate about healthy masculinity, basically try and teach our male children to respect women and encourage them to be themselves- free of any pressure to conform to an image, especially what boys and girls should or shouldn't do. 

Efforts must also be made to address the mentality, that blames the victim of violence and abuse for her plight. This is a serious one my dear reader. Women are not images or types, who are we as a society to decide whether a woman should be venerated like a goddess or reviled like a slut? Women who dress and behave in a demure manner are equally at risk, as are the women who do not conform. If a woman is a rule- breaker or a free thinker, she is not 'asking for it'. I would like to see this Rule Book  and who made these so called Rules anyway?

When a woman is raped, molested, attacked or is subjected to brutality,let us not raise questions about her dress, or why she was out late or why was she in the company of other men or even her girl-friends? By going into such tangents, we are guilty of making excuses for her tormentors. IT IS NOT HER FAULT! SHE DID NOT DO ANYTHING! SHE DID NOT ASK FOR IT!  

I end this post with a request, please click on the above link. It is about an initiative called "Project Unbreakable". These incredibly brave women should be the ones to be venerated, they are not helpless victims but survivors. They have taken control and they deserve respect, for what they've done. I am a firm believer in the basic human right of free speech and expression. However,those individuals who defy humanity, by subjecting another human being to any form of abuse (verbal, physical/mental), do not have the right to spread their venom amongst society through this free speech.Such creatures, such misogynistic animals should hold their tongues, they have no right to make excuses for their brutality. They gave up their rights, when they deliberately hurt an innocent. And lastly to all those blithering idiots who think they know right from wrong-Shut up!   

"Project Unbreakable is an online photography project that aims to “encourage the act of healing through art.” Trigger warning for sexual assault." Courtesy Buzzfeed 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

'scary, plain, intellectual, manic pixie girl'

Dear Reader, a couple of days ago I was introduced to someone at a dinner at our house. A gentleman I spoke to for  quite some time. I was struck by how many assumptions he formed about me by the end of our conversation. When another guest asked him if he had enjoyed the conversation he said,
   "Very much! She is an interesting young woman...although slightly too intellectual and probably a 'radical leftist'....definitely a problem for her poor parents...too intense for me, but over all a dear, sweet, polite, cheerful girl! Oh, I like her very much!"  

I cannot tell you how discontented this opinion made me feel dear reader. It really was condescending, wasn't it? I was really dismayed to be typecast in, what I privately call 'the great Female Intellectual cliché'. By this I mean - a radical feminist, Amazonian apparition, irrational leftist, hipster (Ugh!), manic pixie girl who is a non conformist because, that's what we really intellectual types must do to fit in the 'uniquely interesting female model' yo!

 All you readers of books and many fellow writers will agree with me when I say...The Above Described Cliché Does Not Exist!!! It is the figment of the imagination of some really naive writer (probably a man), who knew nothing of women. 

Now, I know a lot of women who loosely fit this description (I admit I'm one).Yet, there are those, the really frightening ones, that even I can't find excuses for. They are the ones who fancy themselves as tortured artists, obsessed with rain and coffee...they rhapsodise about cigarettes and Marx....they think that reading mind numbingly boring books by Kafka (my opinion only) is cool , discuss the upliftment of the poor and aspire to live the life of glorious simplicity while they sip their beloved coffee in really pretentious and overpriced shops. 

I admit to liking rain and coffee, but I love my hot cup of tea as much as any tea lover. I am what you may call a moderate, liberal (that might be contradicting, but who cares) Leftist. I think that Marx was a great thinker of his time, but many of his concepts don't quite fit in the 21st century. I also realise the importance of food and job security for the poor in India. However, I refuse to spend 200 bucks on something that should only cost 20. 
I like puppies, kittens, ice cream, cake and rainbows, but,  I would not want  Zooey Deschanel,( however much I like her ) playing me in a movie about my life! 

 In the end of this post, I want to say one thing. I deeply resent stereotyping women into clichés like 'Hot Bimbo', 'Nerdy Unattractive Intellectual', 'Manic Pixie Girl', 'Cute Girl Next Door', 'Tortured, sensitive Arty type'  etc etc... a woman can embody all of the above and still be a complex puzzle. Women are not 'types' that can be classified into neat personality type boxes...they are just individuals, and everyone is uniquely different. I also realise that men suffer from being typecast too! Yet, their stereotypes are more often than not kinder than those of women. So forgive me, dear reader, if you are male when I say boo hoo!!! Try being a young woman on the receiving end of  a compliment, that could be a thinly veiled insult, when all you can do is smile tightly, as you don't want 'horribly rude' to be added to your glowing list of so called 'qualities'.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

a mouth full of cake makes the blues go away

Dear Reader, have you ever had a less than perfect day and then something happened to make you smile...just like that? Well, as you may have gathered, I was having a less than perfect day when I suddenly stumbled on to my mother's secret stash of cupcakes.

It was just one of those moments when I went from grumbling psycho to a giddy creature with a one track in; how to devour one, in record time without my mother finding out. Easier said than done.....mum chanced upon me in the middle of the gluttonous deed. It was funny, with a cross between a 'deer in the headlights' and 'guilty' expression, my mouth full of cake while my mother's face bore a comical mix of dismay and outrage.. She then laughed and told me to eat slowly, lest I end up with indigestion. Mothers!!!!

They really are a mix of yoda, a cuddly toy, frenemy,  celebrity chef, pop psychologist, Sherlock Holmes, diva and all the other complex and interesting that I cannot list as that would mean going on for a long time.

I end this post with the confession that I have a sweet tooth. I know that some may find this a serious, debilitating affliction, I, on the other hand just think that my mom makes great sweets and they make me smile. So to all those who are having a bad day, week, month, decade or century..go and have a sweet, 'cause it certainly made my sour day sweeter.    

Sunday, 28 July 2013

of panics attacks and quarter-life crisis

Dear Reader, today I had my very first panic-attack. Now,I am not really the type to lose it but wow! did I go into major hyperventilate mode or what? Seriously though, I can feel the futility of my hysterics as the object over which I lost my senses; missing a tiny USB drive, was found minutes later. So really, why did I go overboard?

Honesty, I cannot say why this happened. However, I can tell you quite frankly that panic attacks are not pleasant at all. They leave you feeling physically drained and mentally exhausted. My chest hurt and I had difficulty breathing, so much so, that I felt like I was being choked.

My mother had to shake me to help me snap out of it. It would be comical, were it not so disturbing. I am generally calm and practical by nature and do not lose it often, yet, today, all it took was a little incident to send me into hysterics. 

As I sat in solitude, post meltdown, slurping a milkshake (comfort drink) I found myself thinking about all the others who suffer from panic- attacks entirely out of the blue. I realised that this phenomenon has become alarmingly common, especially amongst a certain set of individuals. They of the 'steely control over emotions' type.
I found, much to my horror the reason behind my embarrassing episode of hysterics (there were strangers present) - I am going through a Quarter-life crisis.  Yes Dear Reader it's unfortunately true! Much of my time is spent in complete isolation and I am becoming increasingly neurotic everyday. Somedays, I find myself doing things and saying stuff that is plain bonkers, and not necessarily in the good way.

Why is it that some of us are so susceptible to having a quarter- life crisis? In my case, I am probably the most collected (formerly) individual in my knowledge to be suffering through one. I suppose, that in my case it is the fact that I am at a stage in life when my life seems to be at a complete standstill. Were it not for my writing and this blog, I would have gone bat-shit crazy.

I previously thought that 'Quarter-Life Crisis' was new-age mumbo-jumbo to explain the erratic behaviour of misguided individuals. However, in my case I now want to state that it is an identity crisis as well as an existential one. So, I humbly beg the forgiveness from the cosmos for all those times when I curled my lips and pooh-poohed my fellow sufferers.

What happens, when in our 'quest to find ourselves', we take the wrong turn and end up getting lost? I send this question to all who have gone through something similar or just those wise and insightful people who could give Yoda a run for his money.   

Monday, 1 July 2013

Closet Romantic ??? Humm...

Dear Reader, I confess that I am the annoying one who makes those retching noises when faced with sickening sweet instances of romance. Stuff, that any normal person in my view would feel disgusted with. However, I have to grudgingly admit to something. I am a 'Closet Romantic'!
Although, I have no problems with that mystifying emotion "Love", romantic love for me is a myth as I am yet to experience that most talked about feeling. But I must grudgingly admit to being addicted to Romantic movies, especially rom-coms.

I know, I know that you are rolling your eyes just about now and wondering at my being a frustrating bundle of contradictions (my parents call me that...albeit fondly!). The truth is that there is nothing I enjoy more, than curling up on a rainy evening and watching a nice romance.This evening, I decided  on an old favourite 'You've got mail'.  I confess, that I  return to watch this Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan starrer every few months and each time I feel how awesome the movie actually is.

First of all, it contains one of the things that I love in a good film; wit and pithy conversation between characters. I just love the movie dear reader, on days that I feel blue, this movie lifts my spirits. I love the irony and the interesting moments....I just love the amazing chemistry between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I know that in 2013, the entire concept of meeting someone online seems weird, but the late 90's, when the film came out, was the era before cyber crimes and creepy cyber stalkers.
So, as dated as the film may seem, it still manages to be absolutely charming. I cannot help but wonder at my love for rom-coms though. It prompted me to think why I, a girl in my 20's despite being practical to a degree, secretly watch movies that I have in company, long  pooh poohed.

So, dear reader, am I a "Closet Romantic"? I suppose I am... I love life and all it's beautiful moments. I love waking up to the koel's melodious chirping outside my bedroom window, I love the  cooling rain and how it makes everything seem brighter, I love my mom's hugs as they always make me feel warm and cosy, I love the way my father tries to hide his smile at my antics behind a grumble and fails, I love to make my sister roll her eyes and smile at my idiotic comments and most of all, I love the fact that I am at a time in my life when I feel all of the above with my whole being.

Am I a Romantic??? What say?