Thursday, November 14, 2013

Happy Children's Day!

Today is my 30th Children's Day but the first one as a mother. And I cannot help but relive my childhood days today, and at the cost of sounding like an old woman, wish those days would come back. After living the past decade in a blur, what with studies and jobs and marriage, I now have time to sit back and reflect at the past 30 years and reminisce the 90s and cherish those beautiful memories. Now I understand why every generation laments to go back to the golden days when as kids there was fun in everything, even if there wasn't much, and no worries or responsibilities. Recounting 30 of my favourite memories of what my bachpan used to be like - maybe some day my children will  read this and know what it was like for us!
  1. When i was a toddler i did not have a tricycle of my own. my neighbor did. to be allowed to use it, even if it meant sitting in behind her and not on the wheel, was awesome! even more than when i got my own bike :)
  2. The small, basic yet cute preschools; the stupid fancy dress costumes; making first friends in the first school... some of my best friends today are the oldest - known them for over 2 decades.
  3. the first barbie i got - cost Rs 99 and was such a big deal. after that i was so mesmerized, i pooled in all my gift money (rakhi, bday etc) for years and finally bought a basket full of barbie stuff!
  4. playing ghar ghar, kitchen set etc, and later board games ... memory, hungry hippos, lay-an-egg, operation. much later came the countless hours playing video games with the guys.
  5. never tiring of playing outdoor games, whether in sun or cold or rain. chain chain, pakdam pakdai, corners, stapu, gallery, stone gallery, cut-the-cake, vish amrit, oonch neech, fire on the mountain, farmer in the den, doctor, ice pice :P
  6. of course how can one forget the crazy Indian hand games... uma joshi, categories, aao milo, zip zap zoom, jab miss mary, poshampa, gud chipak chipak, oranges and lemon, dhakka diya, princess in the palace.... list is endless, so was the fun!
  7. during summer vacations we used to wake up early in the morning and play sports like badminton, cricket, or cycle around the compound
  8. one of our favourite pastimes was to spend time in the recreation room, playing tt or carrom. and of course, spending time getting to know the opposite sex ;)
  9. come rain and all kids would run out to play in the water and kichad.. pet dogs in tow!
  10. the legendary birthday parties, where chips, samosas, cutlets were staple, apart from the cake of course, which everyone used to keep staring at till it was cut. and the best part was tearing open the gifts after the day is over!
  11. adopting stray dogs, cats, birds; getting pets like rabbits and turtles gave us our first training of responsibility and childcare.
  12. learning marble painting from dad, and then painting ourselves and the whole bathroom with colours without producing a single useful piece of art
  13. during power cuts, finishing homework by candlelight and then stay outside till wee hours playing antakshari
  14. going for excursion trips to the museum or maybe a movie from school was such a big deal and an amazing adventure!
  15. wonderful times celebrating festivals... lohri, holi, janamashtami, rakhi, durga puja, dashehra, diwali, christmas! 
  16. watching pak vs india matches, or when India win the titan cup and running out on every 4, 6 or out!
  17. getting up and getting ready on time on a Sunday morning so we can watch mowgli, ducktales, talespin, potli baba ki, stone boy, malgudi days, gayab aya, etc etc etc. and later cartoon network - flintstones, jetsons, captain planet, scooby doo, pingu...
  18. dad used to make all our charts and do our artwork... even covering new books and copies and sticking labels was so much fun!!
  19. wearing hand me down clothes from older cousins was a done thing, and in many cases exciting! and i cant forget the outstanding sweaters etc my aunts and grannies etc knit for us... so intricately done with bare hands!
  20. sardi ki dhoop mein going out/upstairs on the terrace to study. but of course enjoying the lazy morning time daydreaming or sleeping more than studying.
  21. looking forward to festivals more for khana than anything else. Chhole puri, aloo puri, halwa puri. especially in winters, when mum used to make tomato and vegetable soup every evening, which we used to relish with home made bread crumbs and sticks.
  22. even falling sick was fun - no school, lying in bed watching tv all day, mumma taking extra care of us!
  23. eating all sortsa chat papdi at the local aggarwal sweets, chuski and ice cream at india gate.. going for drives in teh nights or picnics on holidays
  24. the vacation to the hills every weekend - us driving down alone or with family friends, chilling by the river, trekking the hills; or going to visit vaishno devi - each kind of trip was fun in its own way. esp spotting monkeys and other animals when diving up the mountains!
  25. chilling out ideas during summer - eating lots of watermelon and other cooling fruits. and of course .. sitting with the mighty COOLER on... after watering it, there was no match for it! also matchless was eating mangoes by the dozen, cooled in buckets of water!
  26. going to nani's house and getting bombarded with awesome food and loads of pocket money :D
  27. waiting for weeks for the music cassettes to be released, buying local cassettes and getting favourite eng and hindi songs recorded
  28. making plans months in advance for the annual gift buying on birthday and clothes buying on diwali. gotta be on your bets behaviour in few weeks before to ensure good results!
  29. having a warm bath at night in winters before sleeping - led to the best sleep ever. hated getting out of the cozy blanket to go to school in the morning! :(
  30. flying kites, or trying to, on 15th august every year... guys wd do the flying and girls wd hold the chakri or give kanni! :P

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Indian Mom in Indian TV Ads: Then and Now

So the Indian mother has been promoted in her position in TV ads over the past few years. No longer does she don only sarees and worry about washing clothes and utensils. She is seen wearing modern attire, taking care of all responsibilities from children to work, single-handedly. But I guess we still need some more time before we can truly accept the modern working mother.

I remember this ad of some hair oil where one mom uses an inferior oil which takes very long to use. Since she is working she doesn't have much time, and thus does a shabby job of making her daughter's hair which subjects the latter to ridicule. The daughter taunts - ma if u were not working and had time I wouldn't have to go through this. Soon the mom discovers the better brand of oil which works well and takes little time. She switches and voila! The daughter's hair looks awesome and she is popular. She says then - now you can go back to work ma without guilt because my hair is now perfect!

Wow. Daughter's hair the yardstick for a mom's performance? A mom made to feel guilty for choosing to work instead of taking care of her daughter's hair so she becomes popular? Of course there are ads showing mom to be a successful working woman, whether working from home or as a pilot/entrepreneur etc. But such ads are far and few. Many moms are shown still more into housework and kitchen, even if they're wearing pants. The modern moms are more worried about keeping their husbands interested by trying out a variety of fairness creams and beauty regimes. Times are changing, even in our ads but still, we have some way to go before we can truly accept and appreciate a working woman who is also a good wife and mom!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Legen...wait for it.. Dary Karwa Chauth of North India

I still remember it as if it was just yesterday that I witnessed one of the most important festivals in North India - The Karwa Chauth. It is the day all married, and some unmarried women, fast for the health and long life of their husbands (present or future). Legend goes that there was a woman called Karwa who snatched her husband's life from the jaws of God of Death Yamraj himself, such was her love and dedication for him. So every year, millions of Indian women around the world fast and pray for their husbands with the same love and dedication.

My mother is a Jain and was never obliged to perform the Karwa Chauth, especially because she never had any in laws to enforce any rituals. However, she and her sister were very fond of the festival and ever since they got married, they have observed the fast, come hail or high water. To add to it, they don't take the easy way of fruitarian fast, but go the whole nine yards in observing a nirjal or non-water fast. As a kid. even though I never fasted with them, it was an exciting and fascinating day for me as well.

The preparations of Karwa Chauth began a couple of days in advance. Fruits, mithai, mud karwa etc were bought and decorated. Mehndi was applied the night before - my favourite part and a way to participate. Mom woke up at 4 am on Karwa Chauth day to have sargi (I woke up too in excitement). Then she would wear her finest silk saree, apply the solah sringar and get ready for the day ahead (while i wore my best suits and bangles and bindi). We then went to our mausi's place where her daughter and daughter-in-law would also join us, along with another few relatives. We would sit around and chat all day, having fun catching up. I would be the only one having lunch, not enjoying it at all.

In the evening the puja would begin. All married women would sit in a circle and start narrating the story of Karwa, and queen Veervati who was a devout wife observing karwa chauth but tricked into breaking her fast early by her brothers who couldnt see her starve. As a result her husband dies - the story narrates her grief and her resolve to redo the fast to get her husband back and how she painstakingly but surely succeeds in the task. It was an engaging and fascinating story that I had memorized in the first few times I attended the puja. During the puja the women would break for singing a couplet every now and then and pass their thalis around till every woman got hers back.. it was a beautiful spectacle of shimmer and colour!

By sunset the puja finished and so did the patience of the fasting women. Everyone was now waiting with bated breath to see a glimpse of the moon. The fast is broken by looking at the moon, offering water to it from the mud karwa and then breaking the fast. It is known fact the moon rises most late on Karwa Chauth day when millions of women are begging it to oblige them with its appearance. Many times its been hid behind clouds and women have had to break their fasts by looking at its pictures. We kids were made to run up to the terrace every 15 mins to see if the moon had risen... though the exercise was exhausting, it was exciting as well. We wanted the moon to rise ASAP as well - we were just as hungry as the fasting women, at the thought of a yummy feast awaiting us, with just the moon between us and the food.

Finally the moon would do everyone a favour and relent with its appearance. Many sighs of relief, feet touching, first sip of water and bite of food later, the fast would finally come to an end and we all finally got some really awesome dinner! We went back home, sated, after a long day of hard work! :)

I have never fasted in my life, especially the women-fasting-for-men ones. Am an agnostic feminist and don't believe doing any of this would make any difference to my husband. But I do love all the festivities and traditions of karwa chauth - the dressing up, the mehndi, the meeting relatives, the excitement, the food, the community coming together and celebrating as one. And today I really miss being part of all the fun. A Happy Karwa Chauth to all the lovely women out there!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Anand - mayi Durga Puja of Anand Lok

It seems like only yesterday that I was in Delhi, living in the great Anand Lok society, with my family and the bestest of friends around. Most of us have lived there for over a decade, and thus the bonds forged are for a lifetime. Personally speaking I think the biggest agent of this assimilation was definitely the most celebrated event of the year - Durga Puja. It was during these 5 days that we all came together - across regions and religions. Children spent more time with parents watching the cultural programs, childhood sweethearts got some extra time hanging out, participating in morning and evening events made our friendships everlasting.

Anand Mela:

The hoopla started on Panchami day, the day of the Anand Mela. It was one of the most anticipated days, with games and food stalls by the residents, dotting the pandal gardens. We all prepared for it weeks in advance, planning who will put up which game, gathering all the material, deciding what the prizes will be. Lucky 7, lucky dip, glass pyramid, candle lighting,.. so many games to choose from!
The mum folk would have a similar preparation and discussion, albeit for their food stalls. Given the diversity of the people, we always had food from all corners of the country, from dahi bhallas and chhola bhaturas to idli dosa coconut rice, shrikhand and dhoklas to fish tikkas, momos and chowmein to a variety of homemade sweets - no one cooked food that day!

After a fun filled evening followed by tons of yummy food, the revelations closed with a few rounds of tambola. Grannies, uncles, aunties, teens, kids.. all sat down with 1-2 tickets each and waited to call for a line or go boo whenever someone else was a game for the whole community and much enjoyed!
On that night also, came our dear Durga Ma, to get settled in the pandal, ready to be revealed the following morning.

Aartis and bhog:

Starting shashthi, the day Durga Ma was revealed,, every morning and evening, the pandit would do the puja and aarti every morning and evening. Residents and visitors would keep visiting the pandals during the day to pay their respects. Chubby aunties in beautiful sarees spent all morning and evening doing puja and aartis with the pandit. The amazing smell of the aggarbatti etc used wafted into our houses and reminded us of the pujo everyday.

The other highlight of the day was, the Bhog. Starting shaptami, for 3 days, there was a bhog arranged every afternoon. It included typical bhog items, like khichdi, luchi, paayesh, rosogulla, paneer etc. The food was simple yet tasty, to us at least. Almost everyone came down for lunch, and met their friends and neighbours. Even though we ate outside under the sun with no air conditioning, the communal meal was so much fun we did not even realise the heat. Although later it was turned into a buffet style meal, it was the best earlier - serving style. All the elders would sit, and the bhaiyas would lug around huge buckets of food, serving people on the tables themselves. We lil ones were incharge of setting the banana leaf plates, plastic cutlery and glasses, and serve mishti or water. Although it was hard work feeding hundreds, it was so much fun we forgot about our own hunger!

Morning events and Evening shows:

From Shaptami to Navami, for 3 days we had morning events. All children had school holidays and were sitting at home making their parents' lives difficult. So the committee started games and competitions, We had games like 3 kegged race, egg race, lemon race etc for all age groups. We also had competitions like fancy dress, art, dancing etc. We also had block-wise teams for quizzes, tug-of-war etc. What fun! It was amazing to see kids wake up and get ready to go on a holiday by 10am!! We had prizes for 1st 2nd 3rd positions but everyone else got consolation prizes so no one felt bad!

In the evening we had a cultural show which ended late in the night. Again from the elderly to the uncles and aunties and of course kids, we had performances from everyone - across music dance, singing, plays, etc. Everyone came dressed up to attend the show every evening, and food was available for purchase outside the main pandal. Months in advance we all would start practising, to perform in all 3 languages. Mind you we were very professional - with experienced directors, elaborate sets ans costumes :) These shows over the years provided amazing opportunities to witness extraordinary talent everyone had!

Bijoya Dashmi:
Finally the festivities would come to an end on Dashehra when we would bid goodbye to Durga Ma amongst fanfare, gulaal and emotions. And the only thing that was on every one's mind was... how will we wait for another year for this to come again!! Sigh those were the days.

Ive been away from home for past 8 years. But still every year I tried to attend Puja in Anand Lok. But now that all the people in our gang have moved out, the place seems empty and different now. Almost unrecognizable. The fervour and excitement of our times seems missing. Youngsters shun the events and festivities, preferring to gather in some shady corner and using the opportunity to drink, smoke up etc. The uncles and aunties of our time have grown older and taken a bow from participation. What used to be a community event where everyone volunteered to do everything, has now become a commercial affair where professionals cook, serve food, setup games and perform shows. Its no longer the Pujo I used to know. I guess that's life. I do hope some day my children are able to be part of something amazing like this in their lifetime, like I was. It surely is a memory to cherish forever!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

English Vinglish

It was India's Independence Day and I was busy watching the critically acclaimed movie English Vinglish. Its a fun movie which never ceases to make me smile, and cry. However it did lead me to the thought of how obsessed we are with the English language, even more so than any other indigenous language of our own.

India is a huge and diverse country with a change in language, food, clothes and culture every few hundred kilometers. There are 30 major languages, over 100 minor languages, and a total of over 1500 languages recognized in India.Yet we never tire of going all gaga over English.

Of course we can blame the British for this obsession: it was they who introduced this language to the Indians. And the results are there to see for everyone even 67 years post independence: Angrez chale gaye par Angrezi chhod gaye! However, we were not the country to have been occupied by the British Empire, yet we seem to be the only ones who have embraced it so with so much fascination we seem to not only have forgotten about our regional languages, we consider it shameful to converse in them.

Look around you. Today the urban youth want to read, write and speak only English. Mothers are consumed with teaching their kids English since they are born - beta, kela nahi banana bolo! Teachers in school punish kids if even a word of hindi escapes their lips inside the English Medium School premises. Today most literate people know the English Alphabet by heart. How many of us know the full Hindi varnmala for instance? How many of us read hindi/regional language newspapers/magazines? We even read regional literature like Premchand / Tagore / Ismat Chugtai translated in English. I bet most of us find it difficult to read and write Hindi, and most of us don't even know how to read and write our other regional languages.

Go to any Asian country, European country... While English may be one of the languages they speak, the primary mode of communication and media is the regional language. Most of these countries, like in Europe for example, are very proud of their languages: even tourists there try to learn their language so its easy for them to travel there. And here we are in awe of foreign languages - even in school these days it's the in thing to learn French or German. Regional languages are studied only if compulsory.

Why are we so enticed by English and so dismissive of our own? Why do we want to show off our English speaking/reading/writing abilities, and literally hide our skills in regional languages? Sure English is like the dollar of currencies- understood and accepted in most places around the world. But does that mean we disrespect or ignore our language and their speakers? Watch an international beauty pageant or other such world event: many educated people from other countries feel proud of talking in their language, even if they need interpreters. But we would die of shame if we were to talk in our regional language.

Not that I am bereft of blame. I too read, write, speak mostly in English. And feel guilty for not giving my mother tongue Hindi the respect it deserves. I have started to consciously engage in conversations with my relatives, neighbours and help who know only hindi, to become more comfortable with the language and improve my vocabulary. I have bought, read and enjoyed complete works of Premchand in Hindi, like theyre meant to be. I write notes for my cook and maids in Hindi to stay in touch with the writing. Im even teaching some of my international pen pals Hindi through letters.  I am also pursuing self-taught courses in Marathi to appreciate the local Mumbai language, and Urdu to appreciate Indian literature better. And I am not ashamed to say I know, read/speak/write Hindi and will make sure to imbibe that respect in my future generations. I am doing my little bit. Would you?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Curse of the Hijras

No I am not talking about the wrath of a hijra if you deny them money. I'm talking about the pain they have become for others in the society. And the pain of ostracism by us they suffer from for being who they are.

People of India, especially in big cities like Delhi and Mumbai, have seen them roaming the streets on a regular basis. In Delhi they plague college students chilling at bus stops or in parks. In Mumbai they hound you at traffic signals. Be it a wedding or the birth of a son, they always barge in uninvited, gyrating provocatively, asking for money in return for their blessings and threatening to curse if not paid. It is not just families but even businessmen who have to face the ire of the hijras: every time they open a new shop or office, these garishly dressed groups demand money for not displaying their privates and embarrassing everyone.

Usually they are garishly dressed in women's clothing, with over-the-top makeup and hair; and talk/sing/behave in a peculiar manner, all of which ends up being repulsive or fearful for the rest of the society. They are aggressive, pestering and often touch you to extract money. This adds to the disgust people feel towards them and exacerbate the anti-hijra sentiment within the society. I must admit I am one of those people who generally avoid any encounters with them and shrink away while rolling up the car windows when I see them approaching.

I was thinking about them the other day so I thought I'd do some research.

Identified as the 'third sex' as early as the time of Kamasutra, the Hijras in India coveted an important position during the Mughal times. Thanks to their asexuality they were deemed the best companions for the queens and other women, and since they had no loyalties or families they were neutral and wise consul to the kings. However, during British Raj, they began to be seen as indecent and criminals. While a lot of anti-hijra laws have been repealed, the stigma remains till date.

As a result, today the community is marginalised with no legal or social status in the society. They live in poor conditions in cordoned off areas and work as beggars and sex workers for a living. Some lucky ones get money from households during festivities and occasions by dancing and giving boons to newly wed couples and new parents.They face extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, law due to their inability to be placed into male or female gender categories. It is a sad state of affairs, and even though today there are a lot of NGOs working for their upliftment and empowerment, and lobbying for the introduction of the third sex legally in teh society, there is still a long way to go.

Which makes me wonder.. Hijras consist of 3 types of people: those who are intersexed (having ambiguous genetalia), males who are castrated, and males who identify themselves as women and dress and behave accordingly (though physically they are males). I understand those who are born a certain way to embrace this culture. But for transgender people, why would they choose to join the hijra community? Dont they see the ostracism, the disgust people associate with the community? Dont they see prostitution puts them at major risk for many fatal STDs? Dont they see examples of people like Sylvie, the hair stylist or Bobby darling the actress who went through a lot of struggle but were determined to do something more with their life? There are cases of people standing for election elections. Many hijras have been employed in beauty salons, where thye work with respect like any other person. Dont the hijras want to do something for their improvement? Or are they satisfied with easy ways of making money by dancing or begging?

I dont know, maybe it is easy for me to say, that they should be more involved in making their own lives better. I know its not simple It needs massive changes in the way the society perceived them, and more so in teh way they perceive themselves. If only they were willing to believe they could do better with their lives than begging or prostitution; and if only we gave a chance to them to be more. But I do hope for their sake and ours, such times come soon.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Every weekend is a long weekend!

So I'm bombarded with posts from various friends on Facebook talking about their national and international vacations they are taking this weekend since it's Eid and it's a long weekend away from work. Which is great, I'm very happy for them.

And here I am, at home, with a cranky and demanding 4.5 month old, unable to get out much out of the house, forget the city. Do I miss my bachelor/pre-mommy days? Of course I do wish even I were jet setting to some quaint island and spend a coupla days by the sea, drunk and happy.

But having a baby and more importantly being unemployed means I cant be travelling, eating out, partying drunk and a lot many more things. Of course there is joy in being a mommy to a cute cuddle infant but every now and then I wish I could get a break.

Alas you gotta make do with what you have. And since I chose to be a mom, and a stay-at-home one, I have to find ways to engage myself from home. So I'm learning languages from home, learning basics of html, catching up on books and movies that I always wanted to read/watch but did not have the time; and talk to or meet friends and family much more often.

So apart from not sitting at a beach, I can do everything else one does during a vacation, from home. And that makes every weekend for me, a long weekend to enjoy! :D

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Opposites attract. Or do they?

They say opposites attract. They most certainly do. But how desirable is that? In my opinion, it depends.

Many a love stories begin with totally opposite people hating each other and eventually falling in love. Sounds romantic. But is it sustainable? Depends on the kind of differences people have. From personal experience I have realised that it makes sense for two people in a relationship to have common hobbies, interests, likes and dislikes; but opposite behavioural characteristics. 

The similarity of likes and interests will always give them something to do, see, experience and enjoy together without issues. For example, when both people are non vegetarian, or love travel, life would be fun together.
However as far as behaviour is concerned, they should complement each other. If one is impulsive, other should be calm. One has a quick temper, other should be patient. One is talkative, other should be laconic. In this way they will have a perfectly balanced relationship with each other and with everyone else outside.

Of course you may still fall in love with a completely different or exactly same person in all aspects: and it would be your maturity and the strength of your love that would see the relationship through till the end of life. If you have such a relationship, God bless you! If you are one of the lucky ones to have a partner who balances you out, great going and good luck! :)

Things that baffle me about people

Many a times I think of various traits of humans and am appalled at the craziness of our behaviour. Surely human psychology must be very interesting: with a thin line between normal and crazy. So many things though in theory sound so simple and logical become totally different in reality.

For example, its amazing how we always have the right solutions/advice for other people's situations but nothing for our own. I guess it is much easier to look at someone else's situation objectively and suggest practical options, cuz we dont have to do it ourselves. But its difficult to take our own advice. It somehow makes sense only for others, not ourselves.

Ive also realised we humans value similarity. The more similar someone's background or life is to ours the more close we feel with them. I do like finding common ground with people but am more fascinated by people from other religions, countries, cultures. Also Ive noticed when we know someone different from us, the difference becomes very important. For example, when talking about a friend from a different country or religion you end up calling them "my french friend" or "My muslim friend".. how come we cant just say friend?

Similarity leads to another issue: of superiority: the desire to feel superior over others instead of acknowledging, respecting and celebrating differences. From small issues like "this is the way I like my food to be cooked and anyone else who cooks it differently is an idiot" and dissing others' styles to the bigger ones like "my religion is the best and rest everything is a sham" and deciding others aren't fit to live... All of us including me have knowingly or unknowingly mocked other people's way of doing things. If only we could enjoy our diversity instead of fighting so hard to stick to commonality, life would be more fun to live!

Another thing I hate: our tendency to fixate upon the bad more than the good. Especially in relationships we tend to obsess about that one horrible statement someone said that one time and totally ignore the other wonderful things they said otherwise. To the extent that we are ready to sabotage the whole relationship completely based on a single event usually the result of heated emotions. And then we regret it forever but its too late to make amends. Dumb dumb dumb.

Would we ever learn from our mistakes? Or continue making them to the extent they stop being called mistakes? I guess it will take a long time for us to reach maturity as a society, as a county, as people.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Ego and Relationships: Imbalance works!

Past couple of months ive been thinking of relationship dynamics. Especially blood versus spousal relationship. Why is that we have more unconditional love and tolerance for our parents and children than for our husband/wife?

My mother gave me an interesting perspective on the same: all relationships with an ego imbalance work well.

Parents go out of their way to nurture and protect their children. They take all sorts of nonsense from them, which they wouldn't from anyone. Ditto with kids: as we grow older we realise the importance of our parents and what they have done for us, and we leave no stone unturned to make them happy. No matter how old fashioned they may be, we love them all the same. Also we cant choose family nor divorce them so somehow we manage to be with them despite all ups and downs.

What happens with spouses is that typically in today's world, they are equals. Equal in education, ambition, salaries and ego. Neither party is ready to let go of this equal status and thus during conflict, neither concede defeat so they keep struggling. the same people who would let go of their opinions with their parents and kids, become stubborn and defensive with their spouses. Which means two superior people cant make a peaceful marriage.

I guess thats why marriages, where women consider men superior, work well, like those where husbands are 'henpecked'.

Of course there are exceptions as always: there are parents who dont care for their kids and vice versa. Or two strong personalities make a perfect couple. But they are exceptions. In general, the rule applies.

Does it? What do you think? Would love to hear some thoughts on this.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Gender Discrimination and Women

For all the male chauvinism in India, I think to some if not great extent, women themselves are responsible.

If only we did not treat them like gods who need to be served, and kept them on a pedestal all the time, they wouldnt think so highly of themselves.

Maybe you dont realise it but it is a part of your life in subtle ways. Letting men drive or sit in front. Serving food to men first, serving them more and better portions. Cleaning up after men day and night naturally, autoomatically... the list goes on.

You wanna treat your son and daughter equally? Don't just give opportunities to the girl: that's a job only half done. Also stop treating your husband and son like gods. That equalisation is equally important to set the right standards!

Help Footprint

Help footprint is the amount of help one takes from others, or others offer one.

The more independent people, those with no close family/friends, those with superiority complex, ego or difficulties in delegation have a low help footprint. Its kinda like having an internal locus of control.

The physically, mentally, emotionally dependent people; spoilt people, lazy people have a higher help footprint.

While its a personal choice and relative, extreme of either case isnt desirable. Certain situations or incidents may change a person's footprint, willingly or forcibly, temporarily or permanently.

I think I have a low help footprint usually. What about you

Leave me alone!

Lately I have realised that sometimes when you are going through something,  you don't want people to give you gyaan about not being tensed, being positive etc. 

Sometimes people should just let you be, and allow you to naturally feel your emotions instead of forcing sunshine down your throat. 

Sometimes you need to acknowledge and deal with what you are facing, rather than pretend everything is happy go lucky. 

Sometimes acceptance of the fear, sorrow, hurt related to a situation is important to go through to be able to gather the strength to deal with it.

So for all those people who have my best interests in their mind: know when to just leave me be, and Ill be happier :)

Old is Gold!

As I step into the world of parenting, I'm faced with various realizations.

For instance, I only recently noticed how as we grow up, we become impatient with the way our parents do things and keep giving them gyaan on how to do it better. Of course we have only good intentions in mind, and feel it's our responsibility to enable our parents to live better, more efficiently.

However in the process we forget that our parents, with their old school beliefs, attitudes, habits, wisdom and common sense only brought us up well enough, for us to be in a position to give gyaan back to them today. Back then when we were kids we used to be in awe of them: how they could do everything and knew all the answers. And today we treat them as kids who don't know their way around modern world.

Sure times have changed. Sure the way we live has to evolve with today's needs. Sure our parents don't know as much about latest trends or technology etc as we do. But I think still, they deserve respect for how far they have come in life on their own, without Google or Wikipedia.

And I truly believe no matter how much more educated or independent we have become compared to them, they will ALWAYS know better. So to my parents: sorry for all the times I've assumed I know better. I don't. Never will. Thanks for always looking out for me, and patiently accepting my gyaan. Wouldn't know what to do in life if it weren't for you guys!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Reverse Discrimination: A new phenomenon in Urban India

So we all know about gender discrimination. In India's case discrimination against girls. However in the past decade some of us have really changed their outlook about girls, and become positive, welcoming, encouraging towards them. A lot of youth today prefer the girl child. A no. of NGOs are working for the cause of the girl child. Yay for girls!

But recently I've realised this trend of being pro girls has led to a trend of being anti boys, a sort of reverse discrimination, among the pregnant couples. Its become fashionable to say that you want a girl if you're expecting. God forbid if you are pregnant and when asked, you say you want a boy. People would give dirty looks - How can you be a woman and want a boy? How can you not support the girl child? How regressive/chauvinistic of you!

Now I have a lovely daughter and when I was pregnant I did want a girl and I was very happy to get her. But when I have my next child I would like it to be a boy. Not because he will progress my husband's name. Or get dowry for me. Or stay with me and take care of me in my old age - I have no expectations and would prefer to be independent till my dying day.

I want a boy because I want a brother for Anaisha and I want to have the experience of a mother son relationship which I'm sure is different from a mother daughter relationship and fulfilling in its own way. I don't think there is any 'benefit' in having a boy. I just want one of each for diversity. And it doesn't mean i'm against having girls or am regressive/chauvinistic. And just in case I have another girl Ill embrace her with the same love, as I would a boy.

I hope we can be less judgmental towards people who want to have sons, if they want them for the right reasons. Let's love the girls but let's not start hating the boys! And for all the hard core feminists who still don't get me, please go ahead and chew my head off, I'm ready! :) 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kyunki Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi!

Blood indeed in thicker than water. Whether consciously or unintentionally, we have a tendency to be biased towards our immediate family over others.

For instance, I see all around me working people, especially guys, who live with their parents are spoilt. Mom cooks and serves food to them, does their laundry, makes their bed. Since they are working they are pretty much exempt from doing household chores. Moms go out of their way to make life comfortable for them no matter what age. They dont ask them to lift even a finger.

However all changes if the son gets married, especially to a working woman, n decides to continue living with parents. The moment the daughter in law arrives, mothers expect her to wake up early, cook food, do all household chores. Its like they were waiting for her to arrive, as if she were a maid, to retire from their daily duties.

This I feel is unfair. If you expect your dil to chip in, the same is to be expected from the son. You cant allow the son to sleep in late, not clean up after himself, while expecting the dil to be up early n working. Your son doesnt cook cuz he never learnt, he was busy doing other things like studying etc. Probably so was his wife. Your son has a long day at work and is thus exempt from chores. So should be his equally hardworking and tired wife. Any set of rules or instructions should never be just for the woman but for the man as well. If you cant ask your son for something, dont ask your dil either. Its hypocrisy.

Which is not to say parents should slave after children forever. Or children shouldnt chip in. But whether son or daughter or dil, make the same rules for sharing responsibilities around the house from the beginning and stick to it. No biases. N if you dont have a system in place or cant enforce one, be happy with whatever children voluntarily help with. Dont just force it only down the poor dil's throat. Spare her: she is also someone's daughter. And an equal in the family. Not an outsider.

Infidelity: A Man and a woman's perception

Infidelity, as per the dictionary, is defined as being unfaithful to one's partner. Earlier seen primarily as physical, it occurred when a spouse/partner indulged in physical intimacy with another person outside the marriage. In the recent times however, with changes in lifestyle, attitude and dynamics of relationships/marriages, even emotional intimacy with someone outside the marriage has come to be defined as infidelity.

Physical infidelity may mean a string of one night stands with strangers, or having an arrangement with few/one person purely for sexual purposes. There is little or no emotional involvement. Emotional infidelity on the other hand, typically means redirecting love, time, attention to someone other than the partner, with minimal or no physical involvement.

Question is: which one is worse? Is there a right answer to this? Truth be told, infidelity is infidelity and either type would typically hurt someone. Which one would hurt more, depends a lot on the person in question. However, if one may be allowed to generalise, as my friend Anika once very lucidly remarked: men find it more difficult to deal with physical infidelity; and women, emotional infidelity.

I found that to make a lot of sense. Since time immemorial men have considered women to be some sort of their 'property'. These days especially with stressful work and hectic lives, it is usually not possible for people to spend quality time with each other. Men's EQ is usually perceived to be lower than women's in any case. On top of that with equality coming into picture, men today dont mind their partners being friends with guys. Even of they know the two are emotionally close etc. But all hell breaks loose, even for the most understanding of the guys, when they find out that their partner SLEPT with someone. That's a breach of trust that cannot be repaired. And thus men find it more difficult to forgive a physical affair.

Women on the other hand, again from time immemorial, have been very perceptive about men's sexual appetites and their roving eye. Many a woman, especially in the glamour/media etc industry, have overlooked their partners escapades with their colleagues, as long they come back home to them, treat them and their kids well, maintain a respectable life in the eyes of the world. Even if I think of myself, I would probably come around my husband having a one night stand: it can happen to anyone in the heat of the moment and doesnt mean anything. BUT: if the partner becomes emotionally connected with another woman, falls in love and starts spending time and attention on her over his partner, then its unacceptable to the woman in question. Sexual attraction is temporary, but emotional bonding is permanent. And even if she shares his body, a woman cannot share her man's love with anyone else.

That said, I'm pretty sure either case of infidelity discovered by either partner will be a messy affair, so best to either stay away, or if you must, be very intelligent! :P

A Random thought on Relationships and Chemistry

A casual relationship is like a mixture: where two substances combine physically, retain their original properties and can be separated through physical methods, like sugar water. Similarly in a casual relationship, people come together, enjoy their time with each other, while having a life beyond their partner, and walk out whenever they want.

A marriage is however, more like a chemical compound: where two separate elements with certain properties combine chemically to form a new, third kind of substance with completely different properties, like salt. So no matter how unique, wonderful two people are, when they come together in a marriage, they form an identity together, different from their own.

So as long as you are going casual, you can be pretty sure of what to expect with your mixture and how to manage it, but when it comes to marriage, you just have to get in to find out what your compound is going to be like, and whether you can surpass your individual properties to be something even better! No wonder they say it’s a gamble!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ideal Mumbai... Ideal Delhi

Being born and brought up in Delhi and having stayed in Mumbai for the past 6 years, Im no stranger to the never ending Mumbai - Vs- Delhi debates. Initially I was a die hard Delhi fan, but with time Mumbai has grown on me. Given that my family and friends are all in Delhi, my heart is still there. Im very attached to it and I hope very soon I can come back here and settle down for good. However, its not to say I wont miss all things Mumbai! Its a cool city with its own spirit, and Im honoured to have been a part of it! Funny how when Im in Mumbai I miss Delhi. And now that Im in Delhi I miss Mumbai. wish I could have a little bit of Delhi in Mumbai, and Mumbai in Delhi...

With that in mind, I made a list of what  parts/aspects of Delhi I would want Mumbai to have, or what all about Mumbai would be great in Delhi.. If that could ever happen both would be ideal cities to live in!!

Introducing Delhi in Mumbai:

1. Good Dal Makhni, non-sweet paneer dishes, better Mughlai food and South Indian too!
2. Chaat Chaat Chaat. Delhi Kulfi, ice cream carts everywhere. And MOMOs!!
3. Better theatre scene: more festivals and staging of famous plays esp in Hindi.
4. Delhi roads, flyovers, open spaces, gardens
5. Better education options, courses, institutes
6. Shopping places like chandni chowk, Karol Bagh
7. Cultural places like IHC, Pragati Maidan, Siri fort complex etc
8. Quaint shopping+eating area like Hauz Khas Village, Dilli Haat
9. Bigger houses with balconies and gardens
10. Delhi winters :) (i know thats never gonna happen but its just a whim)

A little Mumbai in Delhi

1. Picturesque roads like Aarey, Sea link etc
2. Well planned modern areas like Navi Mumbai, Powai
3.Comedy store! Something like a National Park. Churches of Mumbai. Marine Drive.
4. Amazing firang restaurants, cafes and bakeries, like Theobroma's, Cafe Mangi.
5. More cultured people like in Mumbai (i know this is also a whim :( )

I guess given that I want more of Delhi in Mumbai than Mumbai in Delhi, Im still biased towards Delhi! :P
But all said and done, Ill always cherish whatever time Ive spent in Mumbai, which has been so much fun, and thought my dil is in dilli, mumbai will always be meri jaan!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wouldn’t it be nice?

Wouldn’t it be nice if I woke up to see you gazing at me?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you called just to say you loved me?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you hugged me when I had a difficult day?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you secretly smelled my hair when I looked away?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you complimented me out of the blue?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you pretended to be strangers and tried to woo?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you surprised me with a sudden plan to wine and dine?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you looked into my eyes and said “Please always be mine?”

The Diamond in the Rough

She looked out of the window at the twinkling stars in d night sky. It was like they were shining just for her. On her big day. As the sleek limo glided through the streets of Mumbai, she looked outside the window at nothing or no one in particular and smiled to herself. Today, finally, the day had arrived, her day. The day when the world would celebrate her. Today, after all the hard work and sacrifices, she was going to get the prestigious national award. Although given her acting talents in her last movie, the award wasn’t a surprise. But she did feel vindicated. It felt good to shut her detractors finally.

As the car jerked to a stop at a signal, she was roused from her reverie. Only then she realized he was also there in the car, sitting next to her, looking dapper in his crisp black tux. They had begun dating only a few months ago, though they had known each other for many years as acquaintances. He was the best thing that had happened to her. He wasn’t a part of tinsel town, and that suited her just fine. He was loyal, devoted, hard working, well settled... even their families liked each other. Everything was perfect.

She smiled back at him, and lovingly squeezed his hand, knowing that they seldom need to say out loud what they feel. Then she noticed the venue was near, so she quickly reached into her diamond encrusted clutch, and started to touch up on her makeup. Her old makeup man had spent hours dressing her up in a beautiful peacock blue gown, with matching subtle makeup, glittering diamond jewellery and elaborate coiffed up hair. She had worked hard in the past few months on her hair, skin and figure, and it all worked out just in time… she was ready to flaunt herself. As she finished touching up her lipstick and tucking a stray strand of hair, the car glided to a stop outside the function hall. With a last cursory glance in the mirror, she clamped shut her purse, smoothed her gown, put on her camera face, and stepped out on the red carpet, hand-in-hand with her beau.

There was a huge roar from the crowd behind security and a million cameras flashed, looking for the perfect angle to catch her beauty. As she proceeded towards the entrance, she bumped hard into a plain looking girl, possibly a passerby loitering around to see what was going on, like so many others she saw from her window as she reached the venue. She was shaken by the hit and by the time she steadied herself on her high glass heels, she heard a man growl at her “hey! Get out of the way! What are you doing? You are obstructing me view. I want to see her… if you don’t want to then move out and let others watch…” and suddenly her world came crashing down. The car, the dress, the guy, the crowds, the cameras…. All vanished into thin air. And she remembered who she really was… a plain looking girl, who saw a sleek limo pull up nearby and a beautiful woman get out, with a handsome man in tow, and had fallen into a stupor. “One day, even I’ll be there, one day”, she murmured to herself as she walked away into the night.

U - turn (a small fiction story based on my dream)

It was raining that day. And she was caught unawares, without an umbrella or a raincoat. But she could not miss the appointment, the most important appointment of her life. She hurried out of the autorickshaw after paying and ran into the premises of the family court. Under a tin roof, she took shelter and checked the time. 10:45 am. She was half an hour early. Better late than never, she told herself and walked towards the main entrance of the building. She checked for her appointment: yes it is in order, yes we will call you around 11:30, please be around, please provide your mobile no. After ensuring she will be contacted, she drifted away, looking for something to do to kill time. She looked outside the foggy window and noticed the signboard for the court canteen. Not a bad idea, she thought, and made a dash for the building in front of her. She was quite shocked to see the canteen: it was much larger than expected and even that early in the morning it was chockablock with people. It took her some time before she could find a dry seat and clean table for herself. She ordered a cold drink and sat there, sipping on the drink, looking absentmindedly outside the window. Suddenly she was roused back into reality by a young woman who was apparently talking to her. Excuse me, if you are alone, do you mind if I sit on this chair? She nodded in agreement and went back to her day dreaming. The woman however, persisted. Are you alone? What work do you have? Ive come to collect my Marriage certificate, the woman said, my husband is running late, am just waiting for him... She gave the woman a half smile and told her she had come here to collect her final divorce papers. The smile across the woman's face vanished, as she blushed and said sorry. Sorry. The woman felt sorry for her. Did she feel sorry for herself? Before she could contemplate anymore, she got a call from the office. Her turn had come. She smiled and excused herself from the table and headed with determination towards the building. Its ok, its over, no big deal, you can do it, you have come this far, this is the last step, she told herself. As she walked into the room, the officer looked at her from up to down, then confirmed her details, and asked her to sign the acknowledgement copy. She stood there transfixed for a few seconds. This was really happening. Her marriage of 6 years was coming to an end. The officer requested her to hurry up, there were others waiting. She quickly frew out a pen, and with shivering hands, signed the register. She was quickly handed over her folder and the officer called out "Next!" She walked out of the room, the building slowly. Reality was finally sinking. She could barely make it to the gate. Every step was heavy as she took it. Its like what she had suggested, what she had wanted, what she had fought for, what she had spent sleepless nights thinking about, was with her. But she did not want it anymore. She wanted to go back. Back six years. when all was happy and fun. She looked at the folder starting to get wet with the raindrops, so she ran towards the main road and hailed an autorickshaw. As she sat in there, she looked at the papers again. She did not want to open and read them. She knew what they said. She knew it was over. She knew she could never go back? Or could she? Maybe she could. Maybe she could tell him that she has changed her mind and she would like to give them another chance. After all that she put him through to get here, she wasnt sure he would believe her. But there was no harm in trying! What if he did agree? What if they could rekindle their relationship? What if they could be happy again? Suddenly the day changed from a gloomy dreary rainy day to a bright sunny day. It stopped raining, the sun peeked out of the clouds. She smiled and told the auto driver "change of plans, please take me to andheri instead of juhu." I need to go back to him, tell him I still love him, ask him if he will marry me again. I have to go back and change my life. And as the auto took the u-turn, she tore the papers and threw them outside near a dumpster where in the mud and water they melted into oblivion.