Red… For Hadia

SO we enter the abstract domain. Hadia, the inspiration behind this activity has herself asked me to write on “Red”.  This is what I feared. For me, anything that isn’t particular to the tee becomes nauseatingly close to psychoanalysis. And that scares me to pieces.

Yet, these are some disjointed thoughts that I associate the colour to.

*****

Mohabbatein was an all-round snooze fest. And as in every desert there blooms a cactus, yours truly took away a key message from the movie. Red Flower = Love, and Yellow Flower = Friendship. This of course was a part of the ever elusive Rose Day celebration in the cool college. And then the college I studied in had its own Rose Day celebrations. The only red roses I received that year were in a bouquet from a girl *cue confusion*. To her I remain eternally grateful for opening my eyes.

On a side note, I justified to myself that one offers red hibiscus to Ganesh idols because it’s “love”.

*****

I owned a red salwar kameez once which was just as gaudy as it was loud. It was bought for a school annual day event where the women were all “wives”. Of course the red was to be synonymous with married women. And that dress I wore whenever I felt like dressing up as Indian. I did the whole shebang with a bindi, and earrings etc. This phase went on till I realised the dress was suitable only in the context of “Ye Desh Hain Veer Jawaano Ka.” The only red I’ve worn since are a sporadic kurta here and there. Associations with choodha-wearing brides make me too conscious.

*****

I had an allergic reaction last year to who knows what. My face was swollen and was the shade of tomatoes. I ended up in the Emergency Room and then the ICU. But when I looked myself in the mirror, I realised this is what it must look like when an author says “he/she turned a brighter shade of red with embarrassment.” For me embarrassment is felt in the stomach, seldom shows up on my face.

*****

I remember my mother crying when I first started my period. I was 10, maybe 11. And she cried when she shared the “news” with her mother, then with her best friend and finally just cried every time she mentioned it to anyone. I didn’t get it then as to why she was crying if specks of blood showing up every month were normal, as she explained. A year later, the cramps began. Now, I cry every month yearning for the first decade of my life when I wasn’t bending double over my stomach.

*****

Marilyn Monroe looked like she had it all when she wore red lipstick. I think it was one of the late-night movies I sneaked a glance at oblivious to my parents. And then I noticed almost all of the “English film women” wore red lipsticks. At a discussion with peers (fellow preteens), I think one friend said it looked better on screen while another said it looked better on their skin tone than Indian actresses’. I bought my first red lipstick last year after a hijra woman I was interpreting for told me it would make my eyes stand out. Boy was she right.

*****

Priya Wal looked so damn cool in her red highlights in Remix, that Anwesha was my ultimate idol when I was in school. I wanted flaming red hair. Till I discovered naturally red hair. I realised I could never have those, or carry it off as confidently. The last time I was envious of the same was when I saw a senior colleague who carries off the red curls with better panache than Katrina Kaif in Fitoor. In my head, whenever I rebel, I have red highlights.

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Non-Monogamy or somewhere in the ball park area…For Sneha

I’d really appreciate it if you, as a reader, would decide for yourself if this is a topic you’d like to read. Skip to the next post if you’re not comfortable. Anyway, these are musings. There’s no point to it.

One of the things about being in the unmarried minority of 26-year -olds is ruminating on relationship dynamics all the time.

Non-monogamy isn’t new to these ruminations.

*****

As a curious, 10-year-old voracious reader, I came across the very scandalous idea that all of mankind was sired (umm, what’s the female equivalent?)  by 7 women. 

While my understanding of sexuality and sex was minimal (nil), it seemed strange that each woman would have SO many children. I had barely understood this concept, when I came across another scandalous article. A woman who talked about how she lived with her husband and girlfriend in the same house.

It took me another decade to grasp the concept of non – monogamous, polyamourous, or even non – heterosexual relationships. Yes, that long.

*****

My most favourite movie as a child was Kuch Kuch Hota Hain. Big surprise. If you grew up in the 90s, the eternally college going SRK was as irresistible as the basket ball-playing, summer camp-going Kajol. Rani Mukherjee was a by the way person in their love story.

And that was my point of reference for relationships for the longest time- soul mates meant to be together even if there are many people who matter to you much walking in and out of your life.

So you wait and you wait, till a person you’re meant to be with walks into your life. Or dances in. Or plays rugby. Or your mom spots one in a wedding.

Here’s the thing though, do you realise how much pressure that is on one person?

Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi reh sakte. By which logic I should’ve had no trouble in being married by now. Multiple times. I could have a husband for everyday of the month, and then some.

And yet, it’s the expectation of being everything. The be all for one person for the rest of your life, for all your needs, that’s cumbersome.

*****

A worldly-wise friend of mine once said to me that you’ve not really been in a relationship till the time there are constraints on your life. While that’s not globally true, it’s a big disappointment for most people when their significant other is not jealous. Jealous = Invested in the relationship.

But then, heterosexual monogamy is the norm. I see friends give in to the pressure of relationships and align themselves to expected/accepted behaviour all the time. And  that’s because one is supposed to be in a long-term successful relationship.

I’ve seen many a person ruined by the pressure to conform. To be normal. Yet I find this elusive concept of a normal, everyday relationship slipping from my grasps. And that’s a struggle.

*****

I live in two houses now, one with the family and one with a flatmate. The latter is closer to work. I own two backpacks. One for work and one for travel. I have a bunch of friends to watch movies with, and another to discuss life with. I even own two phones, one for regular use and one back up.

Do you get the drift?

Here Goes Nothing…

Ahem. I am going to blog like nothing happened. Let’s ignore the last year when I completely gave up on writing. Ok? OKAY.

********************************

“Oh God Why Me?”

I turned another year older last month. Honestly, I cannot pinpoint to anything that’s changed in the last year. The last few years though? A LOT.

Responsibility comes with age, said my school teacher. Ya, right.

I cannot for the life of me point to one phase of my life where I didn’t feel that I wasn’t surrounded by kids. Too many negatives in that sentence. Basically, I’ve always felt like I was surrounded by immature kids who could do with some growing up.

Which gets me to my current phase in life.

I don’t blog as frequently as I used to at one point. I take on more work than what I can humanely accomplish. Which leads to muddled up deadlines and a lot of apologies. Much like the kids in my class.

See, there? I am actually growing more rash, as I grow up.

One might argue, that growing up is actually about taking calculated risks. But really, I am too much of a scared kitten for it to apply to me.

SO what are the risks I have taken in the last few years? Let’s see…

  1. I decided to let go of a career I dreamt of having since I was a kid. Sigh. (The sting never leaves, does it?)
  2. I have decided to get totally disconnected to any mainstream news and pop shows. (Still getting there!)
  3. I decided to be a teacher. (This is not funny.)

I put myself up for scrutiny every day. Every single day. The fellow teachers, the snotty 17-year-olds who cannot even cook their own food, the neighbours, the friends. Everyone judges me, because I am a teacher.

And no, this isn’t the snide, oh-you-must-be-teaching-because-you-can’t-do-anything-else kind of judging. That I can deal with. It’s the career-advice and job-accomplishments type of judging. Big deal, you say?

“Everyone gets that!”

NOT really.

You see, the problem is this: Not all of us might ever have dealt with a civil engineer. Not all of us know exactly what a doctor does. Nobody wants to know what an architect does. Or even a designer for that matter. None of us have a clue what CAs do! But here’s the thing, every single one of us, has had a teacher. Probably for an extended period of time. This, apparently, qualifies all and sundry to tell me how to do my job.

Now here’s the thing, I am new to this job. I never professionally trained to be a teacher. But I am one. And if I need advice, I’d rather go to someone who is a teacher rather than ask you, Madame and Monsieur Randome. You, who were teachers for one glorious day in 10th standard when you lorded over a bunch of 10-year-olds.

Also, everyone who is a teacher has only one advice for everyone else. You learn on the job! You’ve no clue what a class will be like unless you’re there – experiencing that hate emanate from a multitude of sources. Hate, or awe. There is never an understanding or appreciation for what you do, in my very vast experience. Kidding.

There’s a silent understanding – ‘I will behave. Hence, it is my right to demand that you end the class 10 minutes earlier than scheduled.’

I get this, and I do this; because even if I may be this young-ish teacher who is still figuring out how to carry on talking when a 100 faces are furiously stabbing at their iphones; I was on the other side of the table just a few moments ago. And while I demanded of my teachers to be a little more considerate towards me, a person balancing her education and a job, I think I can extend the same courtesy to my kids.

Moral of the story? As I grow another year older, I’ve realised educating someone isn’t entirely my cup of tea. Not yet at least. I will probably need advice. Not yours, though. Maybe advice from the people I am trying to learn with. My students.

PS. This birthday bought some awesome gifts. That deserves its own post! 😀

Week Six: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (and Bride and Prejudice)

Book Five! This was read from February 3rd to February 9th 2014.  In continuation of my theme, here’s my second book of February by Jane Austen. Since, Austen is ancient history and I will probably have nothing new to say about her, I decided to do that which I do best. The first three weeks of February-books by Austen are in comparison to their Bollywood adaptations! You read that right, I actually merged my love for kitschy Hindi movies with literature. Also, because after the first month, it was a little tooooo tedious to write on and on about every book I read (with two challenges, this lag in posting opinions is just increasing!).
Short Mein Bole Toh: The book is simply a show of how important it is to get your daughter married and applies the wisdom of Austen’s era to her characters. Surprisingly, Indians in this century might well be living in the Georgian Era. That is how seamlessly the book fits India.
If you’ve time, then please read the rest of my opinion of this book and the Bollywood movie (Bride and Prejudice) based on it.
Pride and Prejudice is one of those books that my mom has read and enjoyed as much as I have and even my friends who consider themselves to be non-readers (no such term). The base of the story is simple, family with too many daughters wants to get them married to worthy and rich men. The daughters have different personalities and hence finding a boy is a tough job. If that sounds familiar to you, as a reader from India, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Bollywood has had this theme for its movies since times immemorial. It’s one of those few instances where reel life actually is inspired by real life. Indians with large families of daughters who are of marriageable age is not unheard of. That is one of the premises of an entire sector of business that we know as matrimony helpers.

In every possible way, Pride and Prejudice lives up to the genre specific tropes. The girl, Elizabeth (Liz) hates a man because she finds him haughty, falls for another who turns out to be of bad character, discovers the first man and then happily ever after follows. The other sisters are archetypes for other kinds of “brides”. The eldest Jane is kind, so finding her a husband shouldn’t be tough, Mary has the qualities sought after in a bride – studious and music lover, the youngest two are the opposites where Lydia has no opinion of her own and follows her sister around while Kitty flirts with everyone she meets.
If you see, the movie practically wrote itself. While the only changes to adapt the book into the Indian setting include changing the number of sisters to 4 with Lydia removed, Lalita (Aishwarya Rai)  being a mellowed down version of Liz and Darcy as a misunderstood character more than prejudiced as in the novel.
I find Liz to be a very vain character. She forms her own opinions about people and then holds them up to her expectations. Obviously, the movie makes Lalita like-able and changes the circumstances under which her opinions form.

There a lot of things I can say about the movie, but since this is about the book, I will keep it short. I prefer the movie because of the following reasons:

1. The music is brilliant! Though it is by Anu Malik, it is not the typical music he usually dishes out. If you understand Hindi, then I recommend watching the songs from both the English and Hindi version (Balle Balle Amritsar to L.A.!) and appreciate the job done by Farhan Akhtar on the lyrics of both languages.
2. The movie is very funny in parts. Mr. Kohli trumps Mr. Williams any day!
3. Anupam Kher and Nadira Babbar as Mr. and Mrs. Bakshi.
This is the part where I contemplate if the re-reading helped me understand the text better. Yes it did! A lot of subtleties including innuendo stare me up in the face. Even better, I enjoyed a movie!
Who Should Read: If you love romances and a tale where two people who seem to be wrong for each other but are actually right come together in the end.
Who Should Not Read: If you’ve no stomach for a story where the main plot revolves around marriage. But honestly, that’s the point of the book!

Week Five: Emma by Jane Austen (and a bonus about Aisha!)

Book Five! This was read from January 27th to February 2nd 2014.  In continuation of my theme from last week, I did four books by Austen for February. Since, Austen is ancient history and I will probably have nothing new to say about her, I decided to do that which I do best. The first three weeks of February-books by Austen are in comparison to their Bollywood adaptations! You read that right, I actually merged my love for kitschy Hindi movies with literature. Also, because after the first month, it was a little tooooo tedious to write on and on about every book I read (especially since reading regularly was task in itself, hopefully, the lag in posting reviews will end soon).
Short Mein Bole Toh: Don’t blame Sonam Kapoor. The book is just as stupid. Actually, go ahead and blame her. There was no reason good enough to turn this book into a movie! Except for may be her clothes.
If you’ve time, then please read the rest of my opinion of this book and the Bollywood movie (Aisha) based on it.
Sometime in late 2012 or early 2013 I remember reading this article in Bombay Times, that doting papa Anil Kapoor had decided to buy the movie rights for the books that beti Sonam Kapoor liked. I also remember thinking what on earth prompted such a move! Aisha clears a lot.
Just so that we don’t forget, this is my opinion of the book and a small part is talking about the Bollywood movie.
If you’ve forgotten about my obsession with women authors, I will not blame you; it’s been long since I kept up my end of the bargain about writing an opinion piece about books that I read. So this February, feeling very enthused and banking on all my childhood memories of Austen, I decided to re-read them and enjoy the other-worldly feeling I used to derive out of the typical girl-meets-boy stories.

Emma is perhaps Austen’s least like-able story that I have read. Sure, it is based on a premise where marriage and stereotypical gender roles define the plot (as do most books of the period), it is also the one where Austen’s lead character is extremely vain. Yup, we’ve seen that with the famed Liz from Pride and Prejudice, even then Emma would beat her by a mile.

To cut it short, Emma thinks of herself as a matchmaker after successfully getting her governess (her aunt in Aisha) to marry and makes it the aim of her life to get Harriet – a parlour maid – married. What happens next is anyone’s guess. The matchmaking falls flat on its face and Emma realises that all this while she’s been living in the clouds of her own day dreams. I cannot put it more politely.

Remember my opinion of Little Women? Unlike the women here, the ones in Little Women face a lot of hardships and then emerge as mature, strong willed women. Obviously since the two novels come from different eras, a direct comparison is not fair. However, as novels that are handed over to little girls, we must really think of what exactly are we asking them to read when we give them Austen?
Austen is known to have famously said in her memoirs that Emma would be a character that no body but she, as an author, would like. Truer words were never spoken. Emma is rich spoilt brat who whiles away her time. Do you see where I am going with this? The “role” was practically written for Miss Kapoor. She gets to indulge in multiple “charitable” causes, dress up for a day at the races, one at the riverside, a party, an art show, Mumbai darshan [not an apt link]  as well as a dog shelter (because cute puppies on the screen justify everything).
I will be very fair to Aisha when I say that the movie is an excellent adaptation of the novel. It’s just as revolting and ridiculous. The saving grace (if you’re into it), are the clothes, hats, accessories that Kapoor and Co. don throughout the movie. Honestly, a book could be written about those alone. Poor Abhay Deol.

Yup! That headline summarises the movie.

Did the re-reading give me a new perspective on the book? Obviously! Do I pity myself on reading it and then watching Aisha? Nope! It’s like watching a brainless Govinda on the TV screen while munching on a tub full of popcorn and potato chips, it’s not healthy but why not!

What happens in the end? Obviously, Emma (Sonam Kapoor) decides to marry Knightly (Abhay Deol). Amit Trivedi is the star of the movie btw.
Who Should Read: If you want to know what the hype around Austen is, and want to get done quickly. Possess immense amount of patience and plan to watch the movie later.
Who Should Not Read: Have you read Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night’s Dream? Did you like it? No? Don’t read this. The pairings and re-pairings and the travel between multiple locations are just as crazy.

 

Week Four: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Fourth book of the year! This was read from January 20th to January 26th 2014.  Also, the last book of January.


Short Mein Bole Toh: Re-reading a classic is always enlightening and even more so if you originally read an abridged version meant for 8-year-olds. Little Women made me laugh, frown and so much more.

If you’ve time, then please read the rest of my opinion of this book.

I am obsessed with women writers and for some reason the same continued even after Parwaaz. However, these are two extremes of writing even if they may be by women. Obviously, by no parameters can a 19th Century American woman be compared to a 19th Century Indian one. Even so, reading these two books right after each other was one of the best choices I made this year.

Little Women, if you do not already know, is the story of four sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Mary-daughters in a family that is dealing with the American Civil War. It traces how these girls grow up into women in-charge of their lives. Thankfully, marriage is not the only goal in their lives and the girls go through death, betrayal and changes in economic conditions too.

The story begins with a bleak Christmas celebration because the girls’ father is a chaplain at the War. The “action” in the novel begins when a wealthy family with a son the age of Jo, named Laurence (Laurie) moves next door to the March family. The reader will immediately recognise that he will eventually be a suitor for one of the girls.

At this point I almost dreaded the fact that the only real character in the book Jo-the tomboyish-outspoken daughter-would change for Laurie and become a docile family woman. Thankfully, Alcott had other plans in mind. After all the multiple trips to New York and Europe with aunts and grandfathers, death of the darling Beth and the birth of delicate beauty Meg’s kids, the novel ends with all loose ends tied neatly enough to compete with a Karan Johar movie. Little Women Cover

In Alcott’s defense, she had to write a book for girls and one that would appeal to all girls. The first part of the book is just that – romantic and full of opportunities for the girls. It’s a fairy tale. The second part changes it’s tone, and how! I think, and I cannot know for sure, Alcott takes a more realistic tone at this part and the characters finally have to deal with obstacles and make decisions that are not really easy to make. For me, Part II was the saviour.

I shouldn’t really take into consideration the fact that these girls are 16-15-13 and 12, ages at which I really cannot imagine them so mature (they do grow up through the novel, but still!); however considering the fact that I read Rabondranath Tagore’s Gora last year who had a 12 year old girl speaking like my grandmother, it isn’t much to ponder on. Perhaps, girls have just decided to be less worldly wise now.

I was probably 10 or younger when I read this “book”. My copy ended in 50-pages and also had illustrations. The original that I read now has 47 chapters and around nine times the pages of the abridged version I read. All in all, I am glad I “re-read” this classic because I see the religious undercurrents and the overwhelming gender stereotypes that I wouldn’t have observed the first time around and because it gave me an idea of what I would be reading in February with new perspectives. (Psst.. it’s Jane Austen).

Who Should Read: If you do not mind a book that is slow by modern standards and which feels and reads like a desi feel-good movie with videshi characters. If you want more, there’s a sequel to the book called “Good Wives”.
Who Should Not Read: You should certainly not read this book if you cannot get past the 21st century mindset of women and would interpret it with today’s sensibilities. Also, if you cannot watch a three-hour mindless movie where the only agenda is to get the characters to grow up and finally “settle down”, then this is certainly not for you.

If you would like to read someone else’s opinion on the same, you can read it here.

The Other Side of the Gender Debate

When people don’t offer seats to pregnant women on buses and trains, I really wish they would rot in hell.

Since 2007 I’ve been travelling in buses and trains practically everyday including on most Sundays. I often marvel at how women don’t offer seats to pregnant women, while they “book seats” as soon as they walk into the compartment.

The other day I offered my seat to a lady with toddler in tow. While she sat and thanked me, another one told me why did I get up. “If she’s has a young kid, then she should take an auto.”

I’ve read and participated in many debates and discussions regarding women in public spaces and what “etiquette” one applies in these situations. However nothing prepared me for a sixteen year old kid’s response yesterday.

If you’ve travelled by buses in Mumbai, you know that the “reserved” seats are quite prominent on the buses. Seats where women must be given preference to sit. These “reserved seats” are a bone of contention between many a lady and men who travel regularly. The two most extreme situations I’ve seen are that of a college girl asking a senior citizen to get up because it was a “ladies” seat and another when men stand in a relatively empty bus because the only available seats are “ladies” ones. I was quite taken aback at the first incident and mildly amused at the second.

Coming back to yesterday’s bus ride, I was comfortably standing in the bus after I sat for a solid hour in the train. I was probably the only woman standing and strangely enough, a boy got up to offer me his seat. On my repeated refusals, he just said “Baith jao. Gardi mein kisika dhakka lag gaya toh molestation ka charge daal doge”. (Sit down. If someone pushes in the crowd, you’ll file a molestation case.) And smiled.

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. Are we really putting the fear of the public or “mob” in men of this country or is this how it’s going to be now? Every woman gets offered a seat (read as unwanted chivalry) so that a Dowry-esque accusation doesn’t get filed against the men?

I’m still pondering on what to make of it. Any ideas?