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!