Sunday, 26 June 2016

To my sister with love... Sometimes it scares me how weirdly in sync our craziness is!

This post is dedicated to my long suffering sister. T, you are the coolest person I know, you are also a saint who has infinite patience and have dealt with my  insanity since the day you were conceived. I will always thank the superior being upstairs to have had the brains to hoodwink you into becoming my lil sis! You are utterly fabulous.

As all of my invisible and nonexistent readers may have surmised; I am going through one of my occasional bouts of sibling love, when I randomly decide that my sister is perfect and don't necessarily complain about her, much! (Old habits and all that) Like every one with siblings, my sister and I love each other, but there are times when we don't necessarily like one another.

She and I are in the same age group, so we had to go through similar life experiences together. Some, we loved, most, we hated with a passion.

Things we hated with a passion

Being gifted similar frocks in different colours.

Being made to wear matching outfits at the same time.

Being confused for the other (We are not identical!)

Being blamed for the stupidity of the other cousins who we grew up with.

Being made to do chores when we wanted to read story books.

One of my favourite memories is sitting across the dining table and studying with her. She was always so focused, she still is and I admire that about her. Another memory is of sitting next to her and reading storybooks, comics etc which we swapped after finishing. Staying up late and weaving crazy stories for her (she was always a rapt audience, so flattering!), experimenting with different ways to make Maggie, and making her eat the resulting culinary invention.

Things about her that annoyed me

She always beat me at sports, especially the ones I had taught her to play!

She always got better grades

She was the perfect daughter, and always did her chores on time, thus made me look bad in comparison

She could never keep a secret (still can't) and always ruined surprises.

Things about me that annoyed her

I was always praised for my intelligence even with poor grades whilst she was always called 'hardworking' despite being the class topper!

We were always running late because of me

I was never blamed for idiotic things, because I never got caught

I have the worst habit of saying 'I told you so'

I always managed to shirk my chores till the last and still managed to coast through

Needless to say, we fought like cats and dogs whilst we were growing up. We still do, and now as adults, we even recourse to sulking for days. I sometimes miss being little. One of us always made up, we were constant companions, so it was hard to be angry for a long time. One of the things that I am thankful for is that I have her in my life. We don't even live on the same continent anymore, yet she and I still have the same wavelength. I miss her constantly; I even miss the juvenile act of bickering (it isn't the same on face time!). I especially miss the time when she told me everything that happened during her day right after we got back from school. I know that there have been times, when I have been the absolute worst. But in my defence, I love her to bits and will be the same annoying girl who told her strange stories till 2 in the morning even when I am 80.

PS: I have always known that we will be the type of sisters who grow old together, and one day be irascible old biddies and terrorise our respective families


Saturday, 11 June 2016

The curious case of the judgemental and perverted in small town India

Woman….what does this word mean? Well, right off the bat I would say someone who is not a man.  The Ancient Greeks of the Hellenic civilisation considered women to be a distorted version of men, a belief, which has always baffled me. Also, I must point out that we know nothing of what the Hellenic women thought of this belief themselves. I like to think that they rolled their eyes and benevolently let the men believe in their delusions. But then, considering, how they revered the male form; it is hard to judge them, that and the fact that they lived thousands of years ago.

Now, though, in the twenty-first century, this belief in the inferiority of the female sex has spread from the men to the women. This, in my opinion, is what disturbs me the most. I live in a small town in the Indian hinterland. The mentality here is a curious mix of the traditional and the perverted. In the words of a friend, if a man and a woman so much as walk on the road holding hands; they raise eyebrows. The male gaze constantly follows women, on the road, in the market, the gym, even the temple. If you are a woman, you will constantly get the feeling of being watched. The phrase “big brother is watching” becomes literal only there are many, many brothers who have undoubtedly un- brotherly thoughts in their minds.

Then there are the women, if you so much as behave differently, or dress or speak differently, you are judged…oh sooooo harshly. If you thought that the male gaze was your only problem, you are sooo wrong my friend.  I can’t help but ask this inevitable question, when did small town India become so judgemental and perverted?

To answer my own question I would like to think that it is a combination of unhealthy attitudes of women and men of the past generation towards masculinity and femininity, that has led to this steep and unwanted decline of the mind set into the quagmire of depravity. I would like to give an example of this by something that happened to me at my gym thrice. I was approached on three separate occasions by absolute creeps whilst I was working out. Despite rebuffs and the Insta-freeze treatment I had to suffer through the embarrassment of having to go complain to my trainer and the management to tell these creeps to refrain from approaching.

This happened to me that first time!
Was I overreacting? I asked this question again and again. But I swear I got the chills thinking about acid- attack victims and other bad incidents. I am ashamed to say that I changed my gym timings. What really shocked me (as I have travelled and lived in various different countries) is that someone could find me attractive when I was all sweaty and gross, the concept of ‘women only’ timings at the gyms in the city and the fact that I was naïve enough to think that I would be safe in a small neighbourhood gym patronised by (on surface at least) reputable folks. The first time I laughed it off by saying to myself, that these things only happen in big cities and that my home town showed progress indeed, if guys here had started approaching girls at the gym!

Happened twice this week
I know what you are thinking, my naïveté astonishes me too. I know that women all over the world deal with ‘everyday sexism’ regularly, and yet the concept of slut-shaming, harassment and sexual innuendo being casually dropped in conversation in my small home town is still a big surprise to me. A friend of mine told me that some women were spreading malicious gossip about her and a male friend, which in my opinion reeked of slut- shaming.

This has become a menace. I don’t mean to say that people, especially women have never gossiped or spread rumours before. But, if something has been done time and time again by the past generations doesn’t mean that it is right. I have heard my sister feminists preach about ‘healthy masculinity’; About how, by making sure our brothers and sons learn to respect women from an early age and letting them grow up organically into their manhood will bring about the big change that society is asking for. This is really necessary; however, before we start moulding the men, it is time to remould ourselves.

After all, how are we supposed to teach the male of our species to respect the female, when we don’t respect ourselves? Therefore, we have to stop judging ourselves and our fellow women; we must try and open our minds to all the unique attributes that make us who we are. We must learn to celebrate our similarities and differences. To establish healthy forms of ‘masculinity’ we must first redefine  healthy ‘femininity ‘; Learn to love and respect ourselves, as change, does begin at home.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Grief and Father's day

I woke up today with an ache in my heart so painful; that I could scarcely breathe. My cheeks were wet and for a while all I could do was scream into my pillow, because I didn't want the neighbours to hear my wails.

I think this was due to the colossal bad luck of having watched some father's day commercial on the television last night. I swear, I felt shattered even as I watched it, for some reason, I was unable to change the channel. Perhaps, it was a force of habit. I used to love those ads. I used to feel incredibly lucky that I had a father, who was my greatest supporter, my finest cheerleader.

I lost my father eighteen months ago, but the pain still feels fresh. Some days it is bearable, some days I feel like I am choking on the pain. It has become easy for me to pretend that I'll live on; after all watching him leave us bit by bit, through the entire period of his illness didn't destroy me. I tell myself that I survived and that I have my mother who needs me. But I lie to myself constantly, I grieve still. The empty chair on the dining table hurts still, the books, the remnants of his life, an unexpected piece of paper with his handwriting, the bookmark in the middle of the book that he was reading...... Sometimes I can feel his hand stroking my hair, I can even pretend to hear his tread on the stairs, or even smell him in the kitchen.

They say there are stages of grief, if so, I want to know which stage I am at? The stage when I miss him so much that it hurts physically. Is it the futility of trying to console my mother, who lost her partner, is it missing the petty arguments and pot-shots my father and I dealt one another to show our love, or is it weeping inconsolably after finding that he had saved all our father's day and birthday cards when he insisted that he didn't.

This father's day I am still grieving Papa... for you and for us and for all the memories that we will never get to make. But I am still grateful to have had you as my father, grateful for the memories, the arguments, the songs, the books, the food and the love. Thank you for making me strong, I will always miss you but I will survive this and live on and be happy. Happy Father's Day