Thursday, December 29, 2011

Death of a Housewife


Why not end this year with the death of a housewife?

MURDER!!

MURDER by the BLOGGER!!!!!!! 

After having spent 2/3rds of my life in collecting various educational and vocational accolades including two post graduate degrees (from premier institutions, mind you!) and spending the other 1/3rd of my life in a self-indulgent and extremely gratifying way of being a stay at home mother, I find it disconcerting, depressing and eventually insulting to have to call myself a ‘housewife.’

I needn’t call myself one, and there are two ways to doing this. The simplest is that I don’t stay at home, but start work, so as to contribute to the economic growth of my country, and yes, my family as well. The second solution is the mightier and the tougher one, and this blog post is a miniscule attempt at achieving the titanic task.

Let me elaborate:

Whenever I used or heard the term ‘housewife’ my reaction was to clarify my status and disassociate myself with the term or the group; I would clarify by uttering, “Oh, I am a journalist by qualification, but I chose my kids over a career- for the time being.” But something was never right about such attempts. I was not salvaging myself. Definitely not!

And now I realise what was not right. The problem was not merely syntactical; it was the semantics that disturbed me. I am not so much in hatred with the term ‘housewife’ as I am with the idea of a ‘housewife’.

Doesn’t the word housewife have the mind conjure up an image of a sloppy woman, with near zero IQ levels; or a bitchy saas-bahu serial watching woman? That, ladies and gentlemen, is my problem with the term ‘housewife.

There have been tons of attempts to change the word and make it politically correct. Housewife to homemaker (home maker as opposed to home breaker???!!!!); home economist to home engineer (irrelevant but better sounding tags); stay at home mother? Still a better term but not general enough to cover all the members of the female species who do not “work” but have their priorities imported from a different world and are happy as they are.

The term has evolved but the idea has remained the same. How often I sense scorn when someone is branded a ‘housewife,’ especially when one has to fill up the column ‘employment status’ in any official form. It could be duly filled ‘employed’ or ‘not employed’ but instead the word provided is ‘housewife.’ Bah. 

There was a time when women needed to establish their independence by stepping out of home and working; there was a time when women driven by compulsion paved their way to work and had thus become a class apart from their counterparts at home. That was the birth of the housewife.

But just as women then had to step out of home for various reasons, some women today are forced to stay at home in spite of whims and dreams of the contrary. To journey from the past to the future, from the then to the there, we require a change. Of the changes I demand, one is the change in the demeaning and demonic practice of branding someone as a housewife and connoting a specific notion to that word.

Someone once pointed out to me that I was no longer compelled to establish my independence – my mother and mother-in-law had already done journeyed this path. I would not be the first one in my family to do so. 

My generation has been lucky to have had the snow shovelled off the road. The choice to drive on or sit by the road should be both personal and devoid of connotations. 

On another but not an irrelevant note, I wonder if a man who decides to quit work to take care of his children be not called unemployed, but something else. 

I would welcome not just the death of the term ‘housewife’ but also the death of the idea of a ‘housewife’. A woman should be given, just as a man, a chance to be labelled not by her state of contribution to the Nation’s commerce but maybe by totally marginal labels like gender and age.

Wishing all Men (employed and NOT employed) and all women (ditto ditto) a Happy Year Ahead.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Mumbai Trigger

I thought I was late in catching up with the news. But I soon realized that it was the News that was late in catching up with itself. I am talking about the murder 13 days ago, on the streets of Mumbai of two young men who tried to protect their friend as she was being ‘eve teased,’ and we get to hear of this ghastly event only yesterday.

I wonder is our emotion of empathy despicably shallow and slow even in the days of Twitter and Facebook? Or do we require a candle march or a hunger strike all the time to jolt us into realising the magnitude of barbarity we face and live with?

I always thought eve teasing was a cowardly phenomenon. And I have noticed that surprisingly and strangely it brings out, in most cases, the same cowardice in the victim and even in those passing by - the witness who insist on continuing their way. But this incident in Mumbai made me realise that I was wrong.

I had once written a response on Facebook that there are those of us who are brave enough to flex our muscles and bash up the teaser. I too was one of those merciless Charlie’s angels, some years ago.

Perched now in the cozy confines of my home I wonder if I would have the same instinct to take on any teaser if he would come my way today. I think not. And in the light of the recent incident, my intuition has to be unfortunately right, right? (The guy came back with around 20 of his thug friends and murdered 2 people while many others stood by.)

This appears straight out of the movies. That’s where I have a problem with distorting reality in movies and providing vivid ideas to the least imaginative and irresponsible mob that we are.

But coming back to my shrinking bravery, I can comprehend only two reasons for this. It could simply be that the cities that I grew up in were not as harsh as the one I am living in. But I feel, in all likeliness, that my bravery is giving way to sense guided by a survival instinct. With age, my sense of security instead of growing seems to be diminishing. I realise with regret that it is inversely proportionate to the growing number of my responsibilities, and hence lesser the risk taking instincts in me.

What a shame. 

I know that in a battle to safeguard my dignity, I might be alone and might as well be facing the most dangerous opponent known to me so far…a stalker, a kidnaper, a rapist or a murderer. When motive for violence is just an excess spurt of adrenaline rush with no other provocation, common sense advices us that we had best  hold back and provide no further provocation. Again, what a shameful and humiliating defence resorted to as there is no guarantee of any reinforcement for us. The passers-by will just be passing by.

I really wish that those classic scenes from the early age Indian movies would happen on our streets – where eve teasers and pickpockets are bashed up by the mob with those huge water containers.

And all along I had thought of only eve teasing as a problem. A friend brought to my notice that even Adam teasing, as I call it, is a problem, and the guys, unfortunately in an attempt to uphold their macho image don’t even talk about it.

Little things in life we tend to ignore thinking that it need not concern us as it does not concern us. The overflowing garbage bin in our neighbourhood, our neighbour’s leaking tap, the bribe that a policeman accepts, the little incidents of eve teasing on our road…the list is long, but when this stray incident blows itself out of humanly proportions, we sit up and talk in a show of solidarity.

I once was brave, am not certain now, but would definitely want to live with dignity, pride and security. Looking up to authorities to deal with it is a cliché and a passé; and the only cure to this  social evil I can think of is to try and direct ourselves and those around us towards a more meaningful, purpose filled and respect filled life.

Monday, October 31, 2011

RA.One: The Randomly Assembled One


Black, White or Grey?

Last week I had called Ra.one a randomly assembled one, shared it on twitter and got called several rude words. I was even cursed to die. Lol. I was amused by the strong expletives and responses thrown at me, and started thinking. 

Movies are something that I could never really take seriously. For me they are just another form of entertainment. Won’t kill me if tomorrow the film woods suddenly vanish!! Puff!! Sometimes, I watch them when I want to kill my loneliness and at times watch them with other people, specifically to be in their company.

While describing a movie, I restrict my comments to the most basic of descriptive adjectives “Nice,” and “Not nice.” If people specifically ask me how I found a movie, I give them an answer that they would want to hear. Oh, I know you are a Khan fan so, “Awesome, u have to watch it.” I know you hate scifi, so, “Not much of a movie. Could skip this one.” And when I come across a more knowledgeable movie goer, I wake up my grey cells and give the person a more informed and thoughtful response.

So movies and I are not exactly bum chums nor are we totally incompatible. Naturally, reviewing is not what I would get into, but just this once I felt like blotting my blog with a miniscule write up on a piece of celluloid entertainment, more as a response to some of the coarseness I faced.  

Here goes: If you are looking for a visual treat, Ra.one fares better than good. There is a technical finesse in this movie that compares with some of the finest movies ever made in the whole world.  The theme as well as the innovative title amalgamate both the modern and the traditional; science and mythology; and reiterate once more, through an atheistic medium of gaming, the dichotomy of good and bad; God and the devil. Applause. Loud round.

But to be truthful this is not a complete movie.  To me a movie is not about the actor; not about the script; not about the visuals. (They are mostly only a part of it.) It is more about the movie watching experience - what I feel and how engrossed I become with it when I see the movie.

Ra.One to me was like a computer with a faulty firewall. At times I found myself totally in the movie, somewhat opposite to what happens in the movie where the characters come out of the game, while I was going into the movie; but at most times I found myself repelled by what was going on.

So obviously Ra.one (for me) did some things right and some things wrong. What it did right was the movie MAKING part, the team seemed to have spared no effort in putting up this visual treat; it would have been an awesome experience for those involved in the making of this movie. But where this movie went wrong was the movie WATCHING experience.

I felt jilted because I went to experience something - and generally we expect to experience something new - but I came out with a deja vu. 

Oh, the actors were fantastic. Kareena was the sheer visual treat and terrific actress that she always is, and Shahrukh was a good entertainer. I anyways adore Satish Shah. The script was loose, and as for the visuals, they were an eye candy and soft on my senses.

 BUT…

When a production house sets a standard, our expectations (the audience’s expectations ) naturally go beyond that standard. That’s called our CONFIDENCE  in them. And now I don’t think anyone wants to nullify this movie, they just are passing a judgement on this confidence.

Indian diaspora in its entirety was looking up to Shahrukh Khan to lead our Bollywood’s production style and capabilities on to another level. I have not yet come across a person who said this movie was utter crap. They have all marvelled the technical achievements but still miss, well, what is obviously missing in this movie.

Even after a dozen pondering moments, I find myself left with an elation that I would experience if the Indian Olympic contingent won a Gold, but not the satisfaction and pride I would have had they bagged the most number of Golds.

This is one of those many things that even with all intent I cannot classify  as black or white…it is in between…it is grey…which is incidentally the most prominent colour in most live action VFX (3D) movies!!! (Now, that is another thing that bothers me.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Red Bed Lamp

Sleeping
With the red bed lamp on
I could barely stay awake.
My eyes longed for that evasive
Vague dream.
The dream that for sure
Without fail comes flooding in
Picking up from where I left
Off last...
Offering that solace I found;
Giving me back my sheltered
Cozy child-self.
And when I woke up, fresh from
Old memories,
I realised I was troubled and
My child memory of the red
Bed lamp took care of me.








Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I am a Myth


I am wrapped in myths.
I love them -
They had cradled me.
I seek from them -
They had nurtured me.
I dream them.
And they have started taking over me.

As a child, playing with my
Grandmother’s  wrinkled
Plush skin, I loved to hear the myths
Pour out of her mouth. Of
Him and Her and Them and Those.
I would then start floating,
In a longing blur,
In an awed scare.

They don’t exist now,
The Him and Her and Them and Those
She would assure me.
Relief!!!
Was what she wanted me to feel;
Was what she saw.
Only perhaps.

Why not? I still question
Their nonexistence.
Myths are complicated, unrealistic. But
Still predictable and magical.
Unchanged over the years.
That makes them magical,
That makes them real
To me.

Oh yes, real indeed.
They exist. And powerfully so
They sniff us out.
They hunt us down.
They rule us.
They engulf us.
And then they call a bluff on us.

Why else  
Is our world so unreal.
Unconvincing
And unpredictable.

This is a myth. Those weren’t.
My grandmother’s saggy wrinkly skin was real.
Her assurance, a myth.
The stories were real,
The lessons and morals, a myth.
The Him and Her and Them and Those are real.
I am a Myth.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My post this August 15th

  Let us celebrate Nationalism, not Independence
For any venture to be a success there has to be a lot of hard work, and in our case it would start with clearing up heaps of dirty linen. The sorry, sordid, sticky and deliberate mess of corruption, over population and slackness that we have placed ourselves in, in the last 60 odd years is akin to the astray behavior that a misguided teenager could end up with when there is too much independence and not much discipline.

Discipline can never purely be an internally driven condition. Even internal discipline needs the fear of an external disciplinarian. There was once God. Then there were many, and now there are none. So Government now is that disciplinarian. Yikes!!!!!!!!!!


August 15th…. Much is said and written on this day. While in the yester years the trend was a highly predictable glorification of the country, the trend today is to question – in a knowledgeable way - the relevance of our “Independence.”

Do I also dare contribute along these lines? Nope! I am a teeny weenie fry in this ocean and much of what I feel has already been explicitly articulated by many. But old habits die hard. For the last 24 years I have been active on this day: debating and speaking out on the celebration and meaning – in retrospect and with introspection - of our independence – mostly within the expected and permissible limits of reverence, pride and cynicism. 

This year I am taking a passive but essential stand. Here goes:

Do I commence with wishing you all a “HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!?” or as a soul [my partner in life and mind] last year mentioned “HAPPY INDIFFERENCE DAY!?” This year, I choose neither. To me INDEPENDENCE is a fact, INDIFFERENCE is a reality and there is nothing happy about the two.

I may be blaspheming in saying that August 15th to me no longer holds the aura, mystique and magic of having won our Independence. History of the persuasive colonizers, the oppressed colonized and the triumphant freedom fighters has long been sliced away from my mind. To me August 15th is an assertion of the existence of a Nation; an event ascertaining the existence of a Nationalism.

NATIONALISM!!! Etymologically nationalism could include three different aspects: Political, Social and Religious.

Nationalism led by a religious fervor: I would presume that one of the most quoted descriptions of our Nation would be:“….India is a melting pot of people and cultures….” But religions?

We might not possibly call it a melting pot of religions but could rather compare it to a Handi of Biryani. Any Biryani connoisseur would know that you don’t mix all the ingredients involved. They come as separate entities; are cooked together; they retain their individual appearance and yet blend in to make the most amazing of dishes- all when brought together in one pot. So is the case with the Indian religions. They have permeated through to the other beyond separation, and yet they retain their individual identity. So a nationalism driven by one religious belief is a misnomer; is nonexistent. 

But on second thoughts, there could be such a Nationalism driven by a religious fervor if we ALL without exception believed [in all honesty] the fable of Religious Harmony – which has again proven to be an unsustainable notion. So, let us just forget this and move on to the next kind of Nationalism. 

Nationalism led by a social urf cultural homogeneity: To all those living within the national boundary, I say we are hardly bothered by the need to assert our social or cultural identity. Though there are as many cultural identities and entities within this boundary as there are hills and valleys here, we have long ceased – in but some stray miniscule numbers – to try and severe our belonging to the larger whole. 

By some strange inexplicable phenomenon, we are all pulled in to belong to the same “handi” – India, despite our cultural divergences. And we are all definitely living our culture; we are the ones who are keeping it alive in the country. So where is the need to over assert it and reassure ourselves on one ordained date or two? And in any case, we celebrate a Rakhi or a Deepavali with the same feverish frenzy as we do a Valentine’s day or a Halloween now.

But to those of you who are outside our borders - let me confess that I had no patience with your nationalist passions. I never knew why you would want to paste the tricolor on your FB walls nor have your children sing the national anthem in a misty eyed fashion or worse still, bother to greet each other a “Happy Independence Day!” 

This was only till recently. I now understand that living in different lands, our interests in the country are now different. While for you August 15th is a day that reminds you of your cultural roots, for us it is a reminder of our political incompetency; while for you it is a celebration of your identity, for us it is a mockery of our inabilities and shortcomings. Today I concede to myself that you too have every right, as do all of us back here who take pride in our cultural heritage to celebrate the Nation that we are. May our Tiranga on your shores soar high.

Nationalism governed by Political Blinds: But when Nationalism is seen as a politically spawned emotion, as is in my opinion the focal feeling, we have hardly a reason to greet each other. The sorry, sordid, sticky and deliberate mess of corruption, over population and slackness that we have engulfed ourselves in, in the last 60 odd years has been acknowledged and now needs to be tackled. What better occasion than a day marked in the name of the Nation itself for us ALL to take stock and launch into corrective actions.

We would do good to address each other today with the task of nation building that looms gargantuan fashion in front of us. And not just today, but on every August 15th, and with some amount of sincerity and with absolute sense of accountability and shame too!

I am so done with the fancy dress competitions in schools that require a child to dress up as his/her favorite national personality and inevitably they all still turn up as a Subhash Chandra Bose, a Bhagat Sing or an Indira Gandhi….or a Manmohan Singh with the only reason being it is easy to dress up as him. I am also fed to my teeth with the sweets and biscuits and tea that are served to celebrate this day. And I am definitely turning a deaf ear to our nationalist songs that are so over drawn in their white lies…”Mere Desh ki Dharti Sona Ugle…………….”

The point here is that we “the young Indians” have realized the need for a change in attitude but have a mountain to crack. And we cannot do it by merely continuing a tradition of harping on the glories of the past and the yester year achievements. It is also on us to educate the younger ones; to create a nationalist feeling not by re enacting an episode, albeit an important one in our national history, but by carving a feeling of belonging and pride that is set in the current time and context.

Like how essential it is to redo ones marriage vows frequently for a marriage to be steadfast, we should today focus on redefining our “Nation”, “Nationalism,” and our “National spirit.”

WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY NATION, AND A WARM AND A SATIATING NATIONALISM.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spatial Thought


Without fail the uniformly best promenades in any city or town of India are those that pass through the railway colonies and lead to the railway stations: vestiges of the colonization. Do not take into account here the ‘back entrances.’ They are a product of our collective unimaginative Indian psyche that cannot digest its meal without having a look at bare bottoms, spitted upon walls and additionally take in the generally beyond revolting stench.

The British were truly the lords of the world. They came out of a minuscule country... tinier than minuscule!!The land was not theirs - it was ours; the labour was not theirs - it was ours; the resources were again not theirs - they were ours. And so naturally, the paradise they made out of it, is not theirs [it was once, but is no longer now;] it is ours!!!!

And perhaps that is all there is today to the magnificence of the Indian city. I am not saying India had no magnificent cities before them. But where are they today? Lost in the annals of history; the ravines of war; and bombardments of destruction. And what of the cities that came up after the British left?

They left us over sixty years ago. We grew in terms of number of people occupying this land by nearly three times. We needed that much more space. We had tasted what the western notion of the city was. Fell in love with it. But never could get it right.  Our cities became wider, but congested and unimpressive to the aesthetically oriented.

Why could we just not emulate the formula for city building that the British left behind? I don’t buy the argument that there is no space. We have ample land and in great diversity too. The modern man’s notion of security does not lie in living in close physical proximity of the clan. So why are we still sticking our arms and hips to the next person?

The answer to this is that we lack spatial sense. Yes, there is ample space but no spatial sense – of both the physical space as well as space in time. May be our genetic makeup is such that we are incapable of spatial thought.  

No wonder we cannot go a further 100 feet to start the next house, but rather stick it to our neighbors’ [the same theory of why we Indians are incapable of maintaining distance between people while in a queue.]; no wonder we cannot think to provide for a hundred years from now, but rather think of the 'Me' and the 'Immediate.'

We have repeatedly shown that long term planning in the Indian context is a highly evasive phenomenon. The British laid roads are till date the widest and the ‘coolest’ [both meanings fit in] roads with provision for the pedestrian. We display our upturned nose attitude with our road building. The pedestrians are scorned at and meant to be trampled upon by passing vehicles. No place for the man with no wheels.

Don’t we all remember our history lesson glorifying the Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro civilizations: “roads intersecting each other at right angles; underground drainage system; etc?” And that of the shade giving trees that were planted on all highways during Asoka’s regime? A thousand years from now and still those will be the most glorifying moments in the history of Indian indigenous road building. 

All we certainly seem to be doing is wasting time in reading up on these lessons of history, but not productively using it by building up from those very lessons.

The British left us a concrete blue print in every city and town, and in every possible geographic location too. While expanding our towns and cities we had simply to copy paste the plan, and we would have had beautiful places to live, walk and breathe in. Even in places that we have tried to emulate the master plan, size and space have been compromised – resulting in only a short term marvel but no long term utility.

The modern Indian, I mean the young Indian is an optimist with tremendous and contagious zeal to outdo the neighbor, the competitor in the mohallah, and the next person in town. If he/she could stretch it a bit further and act on outdoing ‘Our’ current state of living, we would certainly be better off. 

 We have amazing brains; we just need to sandpaper that portion that caters to spatial thinking.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dressing down our Natural Order

Ever wondered why we are dressed the way we are? I do, at least once every summer, in heated despair and sweating disgust. I first wonder why we are dressed the way we are… and later why we are dressed at all. I then go on to fume with disappointment at our inept cultural evolution.

Let me explain. What if we weren’t dressed at all? For one, pin ups would have no more scope. But on a serious note, humans cannot survive without the external aids called clothes. Biologically we are not designed to withstand most climatic conditions in the world with just our skin. 

Expanding populations demanded more space. Evolving brains taught us to span the entire world to make our haven and home, armed with clothing to save our skin in those unnatural habitats. So with brains like ours we never bothered to toughen our skin…we only developed second skins. We did not allow Nature to take its natural and extremely gradual course; we wanted instant results.

Over the course of our species’ long journey, clothes and clothing had become not just a part of our biological evolution but of our cultural evolution as well. Basic tenements of food and security met, human beings had time on hand –it was time to unleash their creative cells.

A brute need to portray oneself not only as different but also a cut above the others led to variety in clothing and haute couture. This was still within the Natural order…because every species evolves its appearance to be attractive to the opposite sex…we enhanced our sex appeal with our clothes.

Clothing had become an obsession to even our ancestors of millennia. Each of our ancient civilizations could boast of a heightened creative achievement in their clothing culture. Each of our clans had their own signature weave, crafted design, and unique wear. And in all this, without exception, local climate and locally available natural resources defined clothing. Only thus far can I applaud the human genius. 

Evolution is a slow and gradual process, it doesn’t happen suddenly. An accelerated global reach achieved in the last few centuries however did not give the human mind enough time to evolve and adapt itself to suit the Natural order. 

The sudden exposure to and merger of distant cultures muddled local senses of convenience; made people emulate borrowed senses of style and concepts of civilized dressing. We had so many things to catch up with, we had no time to sit back, think and touch base. Clothes and practicality lost sync.

Why else I fail to understand, do we have us dressed in suits and ties for office in our amazingly sizzling Indian summers? Furthermore scratch-head-worthy is that Indian girls would piously brave the heat in a cover all suffocate all non-ventilating attire than slip into more comfortable attire.

To comprehend this amazement, I would once again like to answer my first question of this write up: “Why clothes?” Forgetting all what I have written so far, if I were to answer it, this time I would say ‘Shame and Decorum.’

So amidst the attempt to save our skin and make ourselves more appealing, I wonder where from and when did the alien concepts of shame and decorum come in? From when did clothes take on the additional role of a moral watchdog; making secure and instilling a feeling of safety to the wearers Mind? When did societies decide what acceptable attire was, and discard what was inappropriate clothing – based not on climatic conditions but on social perceptions?

Clothes today present physical and moral paradoxes: they at the same time are attempting to glamorize and deglamorize us; they are enhancing as well as toning downing our sexuality; they are trying to protect us from the wild elements of Nature but in more cases are failing unwillingly. 

Somehow, in a confused, muddled, borrowed state of mind we have lost the sense of ‘Why Clothes?’
You are free to tear down my blog or your clothes.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Haunting Solitude


I am alone.

I am alone.
And I am scared.

I am alone.
My thoughts keep me company.
And I am scared.

I am alone.
My thoughts keep me company.
They haunt me.
And I am scared.

I am alone.
My thoughts keep me company.
They haunt me.
Imagination lends itself.
And I am scared.

I am not alone.
My thoughts keep me company…
They haunt me in my solitude.
I am not scared.
I don’t have the imagination to be scared…
My thoughts have taken over me.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I am going to enjoy my fairy tale but only in English.


In my precious alone time yesterday I was vacillating between finishing the book I was reading, applying for a new freelance project, watching a movie and heading outdoors. In the mean time a phone conversation happened and I was made curious to watch BBC: The William Kate wedding. I told myself I was not going to watch it for long. This wedding was not going to change my life, and I had productive ways of spending my precious Friday. I could do with watching only the interesting visuals of the wedding on the news later in the evening, than follow it live.

And of course, all resolutions and good sense lost, I just sat glued to the flat screen. My priorities for the day were reorganized! I was also successful in winning over my two tornados. Cartoon channels were forbidden and forgotten. It was only the BBC. Confession: I got my 3 year old to watch the wedding by goading her about the London Bridge and Hickory Dickory Dock making an appearance in the procession.

And I was satisfied. After all, how often do we see a fairy tale wedding?  And more so when it is set in England!!! I was reading on screen and not watching the numerous tales of Princes and Princesses and Castles and Knights that I grew up with.  And just as one of the reporters said, I could flavor the medieval atmosphere in London yesterday.

I sat through the discussions and speculations on Kate’s Dress; the etiquettes to be held and the faux pas to be avoided in the Queen’s presence; and the sentiments and emotions of the people in England. I marveled their discipline and enjoyed their dresses. I was following a Proud Nation’s moment of history; it was enriching and gave me contentment. 

After a day full of the Royals, I switched back to our Desi channels to touch down at our world. I needed to know what was happening in our own country. AND THEN I HAD MY MOMENT.

It is one thing for the BBC to discuss Kate’s dress or to postmortem their own party. It is for us to see, enjoy and utmost celebrate with them. But to have a panel of our own designers and wedding planners sit and discuss the British Royal wedding on our prime time slot with overzealousness was more than what I could digest.

We seriously need to set our priorities in order. Concerns of What Michelle Obama wears when on a shopping spree in India or what Kate Middleton wears on her wedding day is interesting but when seen from the Indian perspective is ridiculous. I totally appreciate their sense of fashion and their commitment to being presentable to their people, and find it interesting that their media covers it with an ardent fervor. But seriously, has anyone ever given our own leaders or their spouses’ wardrobe even a glance? This is not us. The closest we get to this is dissecting our tinsel town folks’ dress sense. 

I felt that in terms of Media reportage, we could emulate but not get carried away. We could copy but then should have the good sense to set it in a context. We don’t have to sacrifice our own character and personality in a head rush. I was, with all my admiration for England - its history, customs and literature, in awe of the Royal wedding spectacle. But the Indian in me made me shut down my own channels to avoid our tomfoolery on air.

The fairy tale sounded good when told in English...but not when transliterated.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Toasting Men


My grandmother was a fairly liberated woman of her age. She did not fall into the category of the Khadi clad freedom fighters like some of her aunts, though she was nation conscious; she was not educated beyond high school, though there were women graduates in those days; she was not allowed a career of her own, though she was economically provided for on par with the men in her family.

Yet to me she was an emancipated woman. She had a fair share of say in the affairs concerning the family. She was never forced into subjugation nor humiliated within the family. She was loved and respected and she lived with dignity.

I know I sound dubious and hypocritical. Yes, she was confined within a system. She was not allowed to become a lawyer like her father and grandfather before her. She was married off at a ridiculously early age. But she was never allowed to be felt inferior to a man in any other way. She was always valued as a person, both in her family of birth and that into which she was married.

To a majority of women today this is not emancipation – simply not enough in life. But then, there are perhaps infinite definitions of emancipation. One woman’s target may be bizarrely high or incredulously low for another woman.  What works for one need not for another.  And yet we find that all of us who belong to the sisterhood are in a constant attempt, whether feeble or massive, to enhance our status as women, i.e., to enforce our presence only as EQUALS. 

In this effort of being an equal, some of us are luckier than others, and it is perhaps not altogether prudent to pat our own backs. For change in such cases is not immediate, nor does it happen in isolation.
Here I feel we should thank those men who have eagerly tried to help us. But more importantly we should also thank in all earnest, those men who have stood back passively and made a breach in the wall through which more of us could enter where we want to be.

My great- great- grandfather, the legendary lawyer of our family, at least stood back when my grandmother decided to educate herself further, much later in life; he stood back and she enabled her daughter and granddaughters to realize what she dreamed for herself.

My Toast: “To all men who understand and support us.
Also, to all those men who understand us but simply stand back,
not tugging us in when we are dancing forward towards equality and dignity.”

Celebrating with a Bang


Last night was one of the worst nights of my life. My niece was born. NO!!NO!! That’s not why the night was worse than bad. On the contrary it was truly one of the most exciting days of my life. A baby – soft, sweet and most cuddly; a girl, taking on my role in the family in the next generation; and the pleasure of a new born in the family without me having to go through the pangs, pains and phews of motherhood. 
                        
All day long my excitement was beyond control. Night set in finally and being over excited as I was, I prolonged the curfew hour for myself; the rest of the household was asleep. Just when I was about to drift off to wherever we drift to when sleeping, I realized I was not the only one celebrating.

“Pom Pom Pom Pom”: the ungainly, embarrassing and hilarious sound that accompanies a ‘baaraat’ in Delhi. So somebody was getting married. Well, good for them; wish them all the luck and happiness. But hold on. It was nearing 1o’clock in the night. Euphoric, irritated and generous at the same time, I thought the over excited family might be forgiven a few minutes of loudness. After all it’s providing the high they needed to enter into an alliance. Not everybody downs the essential peg.

POM POM POM POM. The music was getting louder. It was definitely disturbing, but then this is Delhi, so you just get used to it. Fireworks!! Now that’s where my ‘friend of the environment’ consciousness was irked.  Wasn’t it enough that we pollute the already chocking air during Diwali? If the denizens of our dense country were all to announce their holy matrimony with pollutants, our air would be denser than densest.

 “Oh, please” I could hear sneering voices. “Don’t be such a party dampener, how many times does one get married?” Er, mostly, only once. “Moreover it’s the environment ministry’s concern. Not ours,” Now many other sneering voices had joined the first sneering enthusiast. So fine, crackers!! Conceded.

 Ha! Ha!!  Now what? Murphy’s law is definitely unavoidable. ???? The Loud Disturbing marriage troupe wasn’t moving away!!! A traffic jam?  No, the party seemed to have lost their way. They rallied to and fro on the same road for more than 20 minutes; hovering over every inch of the road for the same amount of time …they must be arguing and deciding over the right road to choose.

And just when I thought the bandwale couldn’t humanly continue playing ‘music’ {a word used only as a substitute for a worse descriptive that might invariably hurt the sneering enthusiasts’ sentiments} any more, they seemed to have fallen collectively into some kind of frenzy. The kind that we see in the South Indian “Ammavari Jaataralu.” Or maybe it was their answer to high tempo remix.

And with all this frenzy of celebration, loud and incessant outside on the road, and calm and softer inside my home, I was only praying that my children don’t wake up disturbed, and decide to replicate the example for celebration set by the marriage brigade to announce the arrival of their cute cousin.

My prayer:

Thank you God
For the world so beautiful
May all children have pleasant dreams
May all parents have restful sleep
May the neighborhood have noiseless nights
May the denizens have better social consciousness
May your Divine Justice be more immediate
Or else
May you endow us
With more patience and trust [in you]                                                                                                  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Silence


I DEFIED SILENCE…at birth,
Silence was alien.

I was wary of silence…in childhood,
Silence scared me.
In my own voice I searched for solace
The ensuing noise traumatized me.

And with experience,
Not age, I learnt:

The loud carrying voice
Of silence…
Never mute nor voiceless,
Has a character

Constrained silence is negativity
And hopelessness;
Infuriating and intimidating;
Damaging and useless.

Restrained silence is strength,
Maturity and understanding;
Welcoming and comforting;
Concentration and sincerity.

And then I revered Silence.
There was regression in noise level.

Natural?
Silence is not…to us.
Animals know when to be silent.
We don’t.

Mortal danger silences them.
The noise is only before the tragedy.
In us, silence is never.
Not before, not during, not after the calamity.

So vain are we of our security
That we desecrate silence.

Conditioned schooling and social decorum
Teach us to be silent…
First with thought and
Later with action.

Voices drape themselves with it.
Senses shed themselves of it.
But it is our souls that
Experience Silence.

At Birth I defied silence.
But now, I deify silence.

P.S:
The great are silent in their end
But never after their end.



Thursday, January 13, 2011

URMILA'S AWAKENING



The wedding bells still rang sweet in the ears;
The city of Ayodhya lay still with tears.
The cavalcade of the wedding party had danced into the city
A woeful city crept into the unknown.

RaghuRama was banished, his new bride went with him.
The faithful brother Lakshmana [my husband] went.
And so did most of those loyal.
I remained in the walled fortress, restrained, coy and obedient.

“For 14 years, I shall not know the world,
I shall sleep till he comes back,” I spoke.
“And the world will know you for this sacrifice”
they blessed; “for this sleep” they mocked.

FOR 14 YEARS, I SHALL NOT KNOW THE WORLD.
FROM NOW ON I SHALL SLEEP -
for ever more! No!! More!!!
No!!!! never more.

Marriages and Projections:
My sister married the guy worthy of her.
But then ensured that I, her dear indispensable sister was to
Accompany her, forever! to her in-law’s home.

My sister!!!
My playmate, confidante, idol and guide
Ensured that her indispensable obliging sister
Would accompany her forever to her in-law’s home

Only to awake to the nightmare.
NIGHT MARE indeed!
The mare gone, my knight lost!
My life turned into an unending nightmare.

What man would want to leave behind
His newlywed wife, when given an option to take her along!
Were I a fly distracting and disturbing him in his duties
Why marry and cheat me out of my life, dreams, and marital bed?

Or would my presence
Be a deterrent to his adventures!
Where does the question of me being an objector arise?
When my word has no voice at all; my voice has no sound at all.

Has the presence, no! existence of a wife ever affected
the chance to add to the nuptial conquests of men.
So what then I wonder is the cause for him
Not wanting me to accompany him to the jungles.

What revelations is he afraid to show me?
What secrets I wonder he wants kept hidden –
Those that have not yet been dreamed
By my sleeping weeping soul.

I was consoled. Gods, they said, have stored
Great destinies for the three of them.
There was neither raging sound nor listening sage.
My throat was dry. My eyes were wet.

And what of my life?
Neglect, dejection and incessant slumber?
There was only raging silence and people hearing.
My voice was clear, my eyes were dry.

Mirages and Conveniences:
My sister married the guy worthy of her
And so ensued the decree that I was to
Accompany her – her brother-in-law as his wife.

“Sita is mother earth’s daughter! She has the forbearance
and shock absorbing strengths of her mother.”
But my mother is different. I am different.
I cannot bear this pain anymore – or so only I think.

But am I not still alive? Thinking and talking
dreaming and cursing –
no signs of weakness.
Am I or is any woman any different?

Why is it then that she is elevated to the status
Of God, and I remain a mere mortal?
But ofcourse, Gods feel anger and lust.
Mortals are epitomes of patience and servitude

Not a fortnight passed since these men came into our lives;
We who have grown and played, dined and dreamed together
Only to be tested in times of crisis – sister against sister.
When three could go, why not four?

What a sham this relationship of over a decade.
What a farce all relationships in the world
If for one we forget all; If for all
We have to give away ones self, dreams and life.

The temple bells rang jarring sounds of victory.
Sita was back. Sitapati was back.
Lakshmana returned
and so did I .

For fourteen years I was asleep, for fourteen years I was awake.
From now on I shall live no more
But only drift between
Truth and lies, sham and honesty, sleep and awakening.
Anuradha Mothali