Thursday, October 29, 2009

Solitude

Solitude is like the moment on the shore when you realise that you are tiny compared to the larger matters of the world.
Solitude is sitting cross legged on the grass at the bend of a winding road and seeing cars whooshing past.
Solitude is coming home to a hug and realizing that hope is alive in the cliched thing called love.
Solitude is a voice on the phone. A voice you know will 'be there' no matter what.
Solitude is making sense of noise. Sometimes rejecting it, sometimes bowing to it.
Solitude is easy laughter, warm coffee and a best friend.
Solitude is a moment of anger, an impulsive decision and the photograph that reminds you that you have to live for someone.
Solitude is wind waltzing with your hair and water playing with your toes.
Solitude is you, me and meaning.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

DD National and Sanity

With the overgrowing choice of reality shows--each more voyeuristic and scripted than the other--junta has given up on television. In some cases people have given in to their inner voyeur and have helped raise the TRPs of the shows in question.
One particular evening, I was cribbing about the dearth of creative serials and shows on Indian channels, when I happened to stop at DD National. A Kavi Sammelan(a conference of poets) was on. A group of six poets were reading couplets from their creations. Some resorted to famous poets like Meer,Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ghalib etc. No, I didnt feel like I was watching something from Stone Age. I just felt it was fresh considering the repetitive ideas floating around.
The setup of the show was simple. There were no jarring lights, no bright clothes(for added effect) and no unnecessary makeup. A microphone, 6 humans, slips of paper and an atmosphere of passion. The set in itself was green in color with adequate lighting. A thin carpet was at the center and the poets were seated on the ground with their legs crossed. Each spoke when the host called out their name and they rejoiced in the joy of simple yet meaningful poetry. Interruption was scarce and if any was only for encouraging another poet.Everyone was allowed to complete their work. Pure language and manners were a part of the atmosphere. There was no fake audience that was brought into the studio to highlight crowd presence.
It calmed the cribbing side of mine and the show reminded me of simpler times. When TV shows were about content and not about perception. When metrics werent a way of creativity. And no, I didnt feel old when I saw the show. In fact I felt renewed and happy that if nothing, the national channel of India holds on to some sanity in terms of viewing content.
The show reminded me of simple, fuss-free times. When the show got over, I went back to insanity with a smile on my lips.

(Couplets, also known as shayari, are a more popular form of Urdu poetry. Couplets when sung with music in the background become a ghazal)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fodder for Thought

(Popular Doughnut Place in Bandra. Three of us are seated at a table munching doughnuts. S, has just landed from Delhi and is looking to spend some time with me. In her usual, I-will-announce-my-arrival-everywhere-I-go style she has emailed all of us Mumbaikar college students and expects us to converge at Doughnut Place. I have come for some good old leg pulling and nostalgia immersion. C, has decided to turn up. At the outset,I should mention that C has major gossiping tendencies and goes overboard when it comes to 'accurate' information)

Me: Mmmm...Bavarian is my favourite. Please dont disturb me while I devour this.

S: So what has been happening here? And C, am really happy to meet you after so long.(Deep down I know she hates this butting idiot, but S is a master impressionist. She could call you a pain in your you-know-where and you would think its a compliment)

C (Bubbling with over excitement) : I know ya. Its been so long that we all met you know? Just us old friends. (Doughnuts are such a distraction.I pretend to not hear that last line). Did you know that Aman got married? I heard his parents were against him marrying that girl from Philippines.

Me : I am pretty sure Aman would have advertised his parents' displeasure for you to know.

C : Arre no no. I chatted with him a few days back and he sounded low and all ya. He wishes his parents would have agreed.

Me (thinking) : Now thats a smart strategy. Discuss something private about someone and say that Gtalk chat is proof. No one in their right mind is going to double check with Aman. But it provides for good fodder.

S: Its ok C. its their private life. Lets not discuss this.

C: I know. That's true. I heard Ritu's parents are forcing her into marriage. Marwaris no. Its their culture.

Me (on the verge of staging a walkout) : I spoke to Ritu yesterday! She is fine and is headed to Singapore for her Masters.

C (visibly shocked by this piece of info): Oh...then she must have convinced her parents.

S (sensing the futility of continuing the conversations): Ok I am done. Who is up for a walk by the sea. I suggest we walk it upto Khar. The weather is cool and some fresh air will do us good.

C : I think I'll pass. I have to be somewhere in ten minutes.

Me : Oh! Then you better hurry.

C leaves. S and I are relieved that we dont have to dodge uncomfortable topics about other people's lives and head for a walk.

How many times have you faced a piece of false or unnecessary information and defended it? Sometimes not standing up to something that's untrue can make it true. My defense : Avoid people who come up with fake theories and conversation fillers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

100 Books tag!

Got this tag from Aarabi's blog. Please go ahead and do this experiment on your respective blogs. Even though my own personal list of 100 best books would have very different titles I will go ahead with this list.

Here is my list of unread books.


1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman x

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Total: 1

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy x
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare x
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier x
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien x
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks x
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger x
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger x
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot x
Total: 8

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell x
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald x
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens x
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy x
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy x
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Total: 5

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy x
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
Total: 1

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving x
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins x
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery x
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood x
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding x
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
Total: 5

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert x
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons x
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon x
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Total: 2

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck x
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov x
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt x
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold x
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac x
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy x
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie x
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville x
Total: 8

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker x
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett x
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce x
76 The Inferno – Dante x
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome x
78 Germinal – Emile Zola x
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt x
Total: 7

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell x
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker x
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro x
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert x
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry x
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Total: 5

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks x
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams x
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole x
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute x
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo x
Total: 5

55 unread books means I have quite a lot of reading to do! Am mighty pleased to see that I have read most of the classics. Especially classics written by women. Some newer names are yet to be discovered. This doesnt look to good for the bank balance though.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Great Indian Lingerie Joke

Chances are that an Indian woman will read this post and think that she knows everything there is to know about lingerie. Her first misconception will be the fact that lingerie comprises of underwear and a bra(You actually thought that a multi billion dollar business is about two pieces of clothing?)

Chances are that an Indian woman knows atleast one woman who doesnt know her bra size, or thinks its a constant. Which means she will wear the same old thing right from puberty to menopause. The change will ONLY happen when she gains or loses weight.

Chances are that this important item of clothing is the last thing you want to purchase when on a shopping trip.(Wait till you get saggy and have a flabby tummy)

Chances are that atleast one of your friends has bought bras off the street and thinks its perfectly ok. Some net savvy ones would have bought lingerie from Ebay!

Chances are that most Indian women have exchanged lingerie at a lingerie store and not given it one thought of sanity. All because they didnt know their 'size'.

Chances are that most Indian women you know dont think its essential to have a breast examination done once a week. Its simple, easy and the method can be found anywhere on the Internet.

Chances are that as an Indian woman you will sport a pink ribbon or a pink avataar for your online profile and never give the gift of a mammogram to your offline self. If you think you are too young, the chances of you having breast cancer when you are under 30 is more than at any other age. Are you going to wait for the lump or the pain or the discharge or are you going to fix a date for a breast exam?

Chances are that as an Indian woman you think that breasts, vaginal exams, sexuality is to be frowned upon and is a topic for bathroom talk. Which is why most men are insensitive to these issues. All of us have been conditioned to believe that breasts are a sexual organ and are to be used to provide milk to hungry kids or visual satiation to hungrier men. But what about times other than that?

Chances are that you will read mainstream topics of breast cancer awareness, but will not notice that none of the magazines or newspapers will carry a decent breast exam article or diagram.(For fear of Muthalik types of course!)

Chances are that you will read this post, label me as a forwardist(I love that label if it keeps me healthy and aware) and move on.

The discussion that happen in a typical Indian cross section are usually limited to non-religious and non-sex talk. People fear labels or basic societal backlash. Which is why educated women will walk into a lingerie store and fumble with sizes or ask for items in exchange. Clearly hygiene and experimentation is not their concern. I understand that undergarments are nobody's business but thats precisely the reason why you should be comfortable and be aware of your body. To hell with the world, you owe it to yourself.

For starters, check out this link of the famous Bra Revolution show by Oprah.
I am guessing it will take centuries for any tv show or channel to do an episode like this in India.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two Shades

He opened the chocolate wrapper in a hurry. As though the action would yield a moment of happiness that needed to be contained for long. The muck and the chocolaty sweetness coloured his lips for long. He was happy. The devouring of the chocolate and the wrapper licking exercise would help him boast about his newest pleasure. For good luck and possibly a repeat of today he would board the same train everyday. His innocent mind reflected the lucky decision of a fairy and her child to gift him a chocolate. He didnt believe in the stories his blind grandmother said to him. But he knew now that fairies had children. They were well dressed and imbibed the virtue of sharing. They also cried a lot and bought large toys that didnt mean anything.
Somewhere a mother opened the front door of her house and scolded a child. 'If you dont do your homework properly, you will become like that boy in the train. Now keep those toys in your room and come here. Let me wash your face.'

Does religion have a place in education?

We always want to add a nice coating of political correctness to religious topics. In fact most bloggers, writers and speakers keep religion out of their domain. For individuals, I'd like to believe that they have a personal freedom to stay out of it. Some dont like to wear religion on their sleeves. Fair enough.

But what about universities and schools?Dumbledore says ' Fear of a name increases fear of a thing itself'. So why have universities kept the shadow of religion away? Why do people stay away from people who ask religious questions? Is the very identity that kills and enlightens people not worth questioning? And why doesnt it have a place in academic institutions? Why do schools have a pseudo-secular approach to religion? There may be prayers or meditation in the morning, but no questions.

When we were in school, a certain History teacher made a controversial statement against some religious figure in her class. Clearly the statement was said with much prejudice. However the uproar that followed and the brouhaha that ensued, put all of us in a corner. Which meant that students could not speak about religion and teachers could not talk about the subject. Obviously if something generates so much negativity its much better to leave it aside and not bother right? My personal take would have been a debate. One that got both sides to explain their views,so that there is no misconception. Post that both parties could have their personal reservations on the issue. You see, even though the uproar got the teacher to apologize and the students to 'celebrate' Pyrrhic victory it sowed the seeds of political correctness.
And if religion has been the greatest seat of learning then why arent we allowed the freedom of enquiry in religion and out of it? If we arent allowed to ask questions, how dare we call ourselves citizens of a democracy.

Banning Awesome

Can somebody please ban the word awesome for me? Yes a writer who opposes banning is saying this. You can gauge the frustration levels now! Or thrust the dictionary in the faces of people who use it out of context? A well made dessert is delicious, finger licking and many other food related synonyms. Awesome means awe inspiring and awe means wonderment or an overwhelming feeling. Overwhelming feelings are not something that happen in passing or on a frequent basis.

While we are at it, can we also ban the word rock. No not the geological formation. Not the stone that is in the center of the ring you/someone must be wearing. Not the music form, but the seemingly dumb usage of 'You rock!'. What does that sentence even mean? Does the person have excellent rock music producing skills? Does the person have the numbness and the strength of the geological formations?
And if you are using these two words interchangeably, to describe virtually everything under the sun, can I assume you dont want to learn a new word?
How about 'aeolist' ? Which is defined as a pompous, windy bore who pretends to have inspiration.

Jodi Picoult



Can I just say that I am a big big big fan of Jodi Picoult? Or that I have almost all of her books in my bookshelf? Or that her opening lines, the quotes and the research she adds to the novels is heart wrenching. I have even identified her style of writing as one that can keep me awake all night! Some trivia : I have never left a Picoult book halfway. All her books have been devoured by yours truly in one long gulp!
And the covers of her books? They are sensational! Yes, I am a fan of buying books with interesting covers. And her covers have such amazing design! The dilemmas that she deals with, her characters are so human and yet original.
I wont say that she doesnt drag at times. But then, she adds an interesting line, a quote or pinpoints to an exact feeling and takes your breath away.
My first book by Jodi Picoult was Nineteen Minutes. About a high school shooting and I guess its the best book of hers so far. Jeffrey Archer says that the best book of your author is the one you read first. And its so true in this case!
I just finished reading The Tenth Circle and am halfway through the review. Plus I am really excited about her new book, Handle With Care. Her ability to handle human emotions in the written form is unlike any other writer.

"The best part about my job is knowing that I have kept people awake. Or they have read my work in secret. Bunked work, strained eyes and absorbed sentences just to know what happens next. Which other job has so much joy!" -- Jodi Picoult

Monday, October 05, 2009

Need.




clean stationery
cursive writing
and the need to please

open boxes
messy closet
and the need to fill

icing sugar
chocochips mix
and the need to stuff

peeping toes
shoe sales
and the need to buy

random blood
depressing news
and the need to kill

lonely weekends
married friends
and the need to date

cuss words
daily fights
and the need to end

umbilical cord
tiny toes
and the need to love

torn lingerie
strewn plastic
and the need to lust

prestige buys
Joneses' behaviour
and the need to waste

a good book
rainy days
and the need to live





Sunday, October 04, 2009

Why I will never cook?

I have a deep seated prejudice against cooking. I know its a harmless activity that results in finger licking delicacies, but my head and heart refuse to give in.
Ask me to cook to satisfy my hunger and I will, but to cook for somebody else is a chore I'd rather do without.
For the largest part of my life, I have seen women cook and do nothing with their lives. To me thats the greatest disgrace that any society can bestow upon women. Other than people who have moved on to have their own cooking or cookbook empires, I dont know of women who have cooked their way to success.
The Indian woman has especially been thrust into this home-making corner of hers and never been allowed to get out. Even in this day and age one meets people who want a bride that cooks. For a son who earns a lot of money cant you hire one? Even in the most modern of marriages its like a given that a woman should cook. And it is some sort of a matter of pride for the guy. Some of my more educated friends shock me by saying that I should learn how to cook, because its my "duty" in life. Clearly they score very badly in my list of 'interesting men' !
One of the arguments that does go around is that women who cook raise healthier and mature kids. I disagree completely. For that one argument I can give you ten live examples which are to the contrary. And children raised on love and respect turn out better than kids raised by mothers who cook for them. I dont think the fattest people in the world or the most evil beings that walked around had mothers who didnt cook. Plus there is no medical or psychological correlation to that. Yes, there is a quote that goes ' A family that eats together, stays together' , but the eating part can be takeaway!
Another argument is that cooking is very very sexist! The world's best and biggest hotels are run my male chefs but the kitchen in the house should be run by a woman! And frankly its this very hypocrisy that does the pro-cooking guys the maximum damage. A lot of men cook and a lot of women enjoy cooking. In fact my female friends who cook have some incredible websites and recipes to offer! But to assume it to be a women's domain is downright childish!
In fact architecturally, a house designed by me, would have very little space for the kitchen. More so for the library, garden and closet! :)

I leave you with Dustin Hoffman's quote! I would gladly exchange some biological "duties" with men who are willing...

"I feel cheated never being able to know what it's like to get pregnant, carry a child and breast feed. "

Market for Indian Brides

There is this scene in Namastey London, where Akshay Kumar asks Rishi Kapoor why he wanted his daughter to marry an Indian guy. Especially when Rishi Kapoor has raised his kids in a foreign environment, earned money in pounds and looked at culture and cuisine as a thing that belongs to 'apna desh'.
The larger point in my view is the stupid premise of culture. I cant understand how you gain a culture or lose it. If I eat steak and soup all the time instead of dal chaawal (rice and lentils) have I lost my sense of culture? And whats this weird need to contain culture within the community. Does containing a culture by marrying within the community and interacting within a community keep the culture intact? If that is the case even business should come in the cultural norms. When you, as a culture inspector want people to marry or interact within one culture, shouldnt you be doing business within the same culture? Or do capitalistic tendencies change your mind?
Have you ever wondered how kids of the richest families in a culture get away with marrying outside the culture? Try and notice this. Next time someone asks or lectures you about culture make sure you find the most well off family in that community and see how their kids and their parents behave. And the loudest voices about containing culture will come from families living in the fringes.
Coming to the main point of Indian brides here are some thoughts :

1. What is wrong with an Indian girl in the United States of America? Like seriously! Are they all demented or "forward"? Is there no one who you can get married to? And you, Mr.Spineless, who cant stand up for his own life. can you please iterate why coming to India is the only respite? Or is it that there are many families who will give their daughters up for a life in the good old 'West'?
2. If your point is to get married, how difficult is it to find a girl with similar interests? Or is it that you cant find one thats getting you to take the arranged marriage route?
3. Please get a life. If you think that by exchanging photos and by chatting Gtalk you can get a wife, you need to sink into some hell hole.

A friend of mine, okayed an arranged marriage to a complete jerk. I blame her for all future misfortunes that she is going to have. For me the very thought of sleeping with a stranger is blasphemous, hence the rant against nincompoops.