Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Nephew Strikes Again

Have I mentioned my idiot nephew (IN) to you? Oh yes I have, he's here and here (in the latter, his Mom is the bhabhi I talk about). That he represents the next generation of India sends shivers down my spine. So here's the latest episode of my nephew's font of wisdom.

I was visiting him this summer, since I was in India. Since he does no work around the house, throws litter and garbage wherever he happens to be at the moment (throwing toffee wrappers on the floor next to the bed, tossing an empty food bag on the dining table etc.), expects his Mom to obey all his shouted commands (she does) and generally behaves like a brat, I was a 'bit' irritated anyway. So when he was about to go and get ready, the following conversation happened:

IN: Mummy, mere kapde nikaal ke rakhna, I am going to have a bath.
(This is a 20 year old guy we are talking about.)
Me: Well, you should do it yourself, why should your Mom take out and keep all your clothes ready?
IN: Kyun, aap Jiju (referring to my husband) ke kapde nahi nikaalti ho kya?
Me: Of course not! He can take care of himself.
IN: And he does not say anything to you ?
Me: No, why should he?
IN: Tabhi aap itne bigade huye ho!

I was beyond speechless. This is wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to start.

On the bright side, he and his Mom have singlehandedly kept this blog alive!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

How to carry on the family name

I am doing a class project on female foeticide and found this online.

From the website

AADHAR, an organisation in India dedicated to campaign against systemic violation of women’s rights, prepared this very disturbing press advertisement revealing the too common practice of female foeticide. The advertisement won a Gold Press Lion at Cannes 2008. In India, every year 1.1 million unborn baby girls die before they are born. Unfortunately the men who insist on these abortions have little idea of what really happens in the theatre.

Read point no. 7 ...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Explain Caste?

I was doing an assignment on Cultural Diversity with a friend today, and we repeatedly came across the word "caste" in relation to India. So he asked me what the word "Caste" meant since he had never heard it before.

I was flummoxed. How do you explain caste?
How does one condense several hundred years of history into a few pithy sentences? A hundred years of opression and injustice? I tried, of course. And gave him a crash course on the Hindu caste system.

I started with the four castes. How people were classified by birth (though it was hard to explain "untouchables"- he did not get the concept). Schedules castes and tribes. OBC's. How marriages were fixed only within castes. The caste honor system.
Reservations. Mandal Commision. Self-immolation. Supreme court rulings, the creamy layer, admissions in college. Caste Politics, Mayawati, Laloo Prasad Yadav.

He resolved never to ask me the meaning of any word he did not know.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A woman's ubiquitous Tool

What is the one tool that a woman almost always has? A woman from any country in the world? (and there is no need to get dirty here ;)
Any guesses?


This truth dawned on me a few days ago while talking to a friend from Tunisia. We were discussing eyebrow threading and she mentioned that she often uses a plucker. A couple of years ago, another of my friends from China was using a plucker. So do most Americans (though I don't have empirical evidence for this). So do most Indian women.

Image source:

Of course, this raises a lot of questions about how body hair is deemed ugly on women. I don't see men waxing their hair or shaving their legs. Apart from, of course, Shahrukh Khan. I love his waxed clean chest. Lovvvvvvve it!!!!! (I had to emphasize that).

That raises another question... how do you all like your men? Hairy or less hairy?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Tag

I am bored and have a lot of homework to do. Since I will do anything to avoid studying, I am going to do a tag that I have been thinking of doing for some time now. Obviously, the only way to make me write on my blog is to threaten me with studies! It is borrowed from my friend here.

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn on page 18 and find line 4.
Communication is also affected by the physical environment.

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can & catch?
A beautiful pink-orange stole gifted to me by my Mausi.

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV?
I have not watched TV since August. The last thing I saw was an Indian soap called "Uttran" in India.

4.Without looking, guess what time it is?
Around 9:30 PM.

5.Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?
It is 9:08 PM

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
Another computer.

7.When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
3 days ago, on Tuesday afternoon (its Thursday night now). I went to school.

8. Before you started this Q&As, what did you look at?
The front door- to check if it was locked (it was not!)

9.What are you wearing?
A green skirt and a red T-shirt.

10. When did you last laugh?
I really don't remember. Sad, na?

11. What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Nothing at all.

12. Seen anything weird lately?
Well, I got a packet of garlic cloves and they have gone bad and are spouting fungus. That is weird, since I kept them refrigerated all the time.

13. What do you think of this quiz?
Inane. But then, I don't have to study.

14. What is the last film you saw?
"What's your Rashee?"
Saw it last Sunday.

15. If you became a multimillionaire overnight, what would you buy?
Two BMW's- the sedan and the SUV and two mansions, one in India and one in the U.S.

16. Tell me something about you that I dunno!
Since I don't know who is asking this question, it can't have a valid answer.

17. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
I would want Indians to be happy when a girl is born.

18. Do you like to Dance?
Yes. It is what makes me the happiest in the whole world. I forget everything and give myself to it.

19. Imagine your first child is a girl , what do you call her?
Raunak (it is a Punjabi word, impossible to translate)

20. Imagine your first child is a boy , what do you call him?
Advait (meaning "the One")

21. Would you ever consider living abroad?
I already do.

22. What do you want GOD to say to you when you reach the pearly gates?
Welcome to my world!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ironical Superstitions

I have always been a very superstitious person, taking to heart the million or so do's and dont's that I grew up with. Everything from not going out after sneezing, black cat crossing, chappal chadhna, etc. A lot of them revolved around Saturday.

One of the most basic tenets was NEVER NEVER EVER to buy loha (iron) on a Saturday. This would offend Shani and bring his wrath upon you! It was like a patthar ki lakeer for us. My mom would not even buy as much as a spoon (since steel is derived from iron) that day. And I thought that this was something that most of India followed, since Shani is worshipped all over the country.

Quite recently, I was talking to an Indian friend who was buying a car. On Saturday. Me being the superstitious person that I am, told her that she could not possibly even conceive of buying a car (that's a LOT of iron) on Saturday. And she told me that in her state (in South India) one is supposed to buy on a Saturday. That it is good to do so!

That left me flabbergasted. And made me wonder. The superstitions that I grew up by and would swear by, reverted and inverted. IN THE SAME COUNTRY. It was not somebody from another country who was questioning my beliefs (which maybe I could understand). We had exactly the opposite ideas.

Another such incident happened a month ago. I moved into a apartment, and my in-laws told me to boil milk- and let it boil over- as a good omen in the new house. This was so that there is always "plenty" in the house. Now, in North India, milk boiling over is considered a very bad omen (witness the number of Hindi films with mothers-in-law screaming Apshagun, Hai Raaam if the hapless overburdened daughter-in-law was doing something else and the milk boiled over). Again, the same event reinterpreted from top to bottom!

So what did it mean, if anything? Did this not just show that all our superstitions are just that? If people in the same country can have diametrically different perpectives on the same thing, then it really does go to show that maybe we should question these beliefs.

Meanwhile, I'm still keeping my chappals straight and not buying iron on Saturday!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ignored blog gets some love from a friend

I got my first ever blog award. Yippeee!! And from a friend whose blog I love- and who blogs much better and more than I do. Thanks a lot, Rich!

You have inspired me to blog again. I have been a bad girl and have been ignoring my blog. Will come back soon. As soon as I settle down in the new place and get an internet connection :)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Happy Women's Day

As is my wont, I read the Sunday TOI and HT religiously (an old habit from childhood). As I read the papers today, they were full of news about Women's Day. Not only had they conducted extensive surveys, they also had the more 'prominent' women in India write their take on the importance of the day/ being a women.

I can only say it saddened me, depressed me, made me feel even worse. I think India treats it women badly. I also think that most of Indian culture is premised on the basis of women's oppression. Though a friend disagrees, what does he know? He is but a man!

India/Indian culture is a multi-headed monster, each of its heads incessantly pecking away at a woman's dignity, hope, freedom, liberty and agency. It never gives up. It often rears its head as a publicised Ram Sene incident, or a Sanjay Dutt news story.
But more often, India manifests itself in everyday small events, that never make the news. You know what being a woman in India is about? It is about slowly surrendering your dignity and hope to the larger beast of India.

It is about being groped in a crowded bus/train every day.
It is about knowing that you can never go out at night.
It is about not wearing what you want to wear.
It is about fighting to go to college.
It is about begging for a chance to study.
It is about choosing/ not choosing your life partner.
It is about dowry.
It is about wanting to learn how to dance.
It is about the liberty to choose/ unchoose to have kids.
It is about how I choose to spend my evening.
It is about public space (or the lack of it).
It is about how I spend the money I have.
It is about traveling alone.
It is about sitting in a pub and drinking (or atleast having the freedom to do so).
It is about having only sons.
Heck- it is even about the aashirwad you get- putrwati bhav:

It is about my mother telling me that she wants me to have a son. Because she could not have one. That she has waited 40 years for a son.
And I don't blame her. She's been mistreated by society who does not respect a daughter's mother. She wants better for me- and in her eyes, the only way to get there is to have a son.

It is about being pitied when you have a daughter.

It is about every girl child that is aborted.
My cousin sister did that. She already had two daughters, and so when her third child was a girl, she had it aborted. And eventually had a son.

It is about every single aunt, uncle and relative who knew about this incident and said it was a good decision.

It is about not getting married. After a certain age, a girl lives with the stigma of being single. She is an object of pity and sympathy- and the victim of every real/pseudo astrologer ascetic who can claim to find a cure for her singleness in her stars.

It is about every vrat, prayer and mannat a girl does/makes to get a husband.
It is about every relative's voice of pity as they bemoan your sorry state.

It is about how 'good girls' don't drink.
It is about why arranged marriages are better than love.
It is about duty.

It is about feeding your husband.
It is about washing his clothes.
Disclaimer- I don't want to say that the above is bad/good. Only that it should be a choice. Not a SACRED DUTY!!

It is about being told that your foremost duty is to keep house for your husband.

It is about sexuality. Or the fact that it should not exist.

It is about the fact that married women should not travel alone. Or leave their husbands alone at home to tend for themselves. How will the poor babies eat, clothe, sleep, drink, whatever?

It is about life. Or the fact that a woman should not have her own.

As I have reiterated often, a woman is not supposed to have her own life outside of her husband, kids and family (gasp! what else can she want!). And as usual, I was talking to one of my relatives (my bhabhi) who was trying to convince me to have a kid. She mentioned my cousin, who just had a daughter, saying that
"Pehle wo free hoti thhi.. ab wo saara din uske (apni beti) saath busy rehti hai"

Subtext: How awesome. That's what you should aim at too. Then you will have something to do with your life, a purpose to this childless existence of yours.
Well, that argument certainly convinced me!

Yes, I believed in female equality. Female freedom of choice. Once.
Now, I too often feel that there is no hope. No hope for any change. Its not about big gestures.
Its about what is entrenched in the minds of India's people. For every Sonia Gandhi, Renuka Chowdhary and Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, there are a thousand silent girls, who wearily give up hope.

It is about parents not wanting to spend on their daughter's education.
With higher education getting more and more expensive in India, parents often make a choice that the girl can go to the local college while the guy goes to an expensively bought place in engineering.

I am sad. I am angry. And it gets me down and drains me of any hope.
For this multi-headed hydra goes on and on... in the life of every Indian girl, eroding her shreds of dignity, never giving up..until she does!
I am just another one of them... tired of fighting, tired of standing up, tired of them all... who never let me be.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Alone? Still?

Yesterday, some old family friends were visiting my parents. I happened to call home- and spoke to Uncle-Aunty as well. They've known me since I was a little kid.
And when I grew up, they were among the foremost people to be worried that I wasn't getting married. On time.
They even fixed me up two or three times- with their friends sons' (of course, it never worked out).

Considering that they were so worried about my single state, I assumed that they would be happy that I was married now. I last met them during my wedding (obviously they had been there), and this was the first time I spoke to them after that.

So the first thing Uncle says to me " Kya beta, still alone?"
I was flabbergasted.
"No, Uncle, I'm married now"

I felt this would make him happy, as he was always bothered by my unmarried state (I wonder why, since my family saw his about once a year). Though I would have taken offence at this statement even when I was single. But I could not think of anything else to say.

"I mean, you don't have kids. So of course you are alone."

Well, wow!! So first he kept fixing me up with random people, to remedy what he thought was wrong with my life. Now, he's still finding things wrong with it!!

But what bothered me most was the subtext.
A woman is alone till she's married. And she's even lonelier till she has kids.
She's never enough for herself. Her life, work, career, friends obviously don't count towards makin her any less lonely.
Hell, even the fact that she's married doesn't make a difference!!!

What happens when the kids grow up and leave? They, after all, define her life.
And the poor woman is alone. Again.

I can't even begin to get angry at this- because this is wrong at so many levels, I wouldn't know where to start. Yet I'm angry. Yet it bothers me. Yet, I don't know what to do.

Will people ever think a woman is complete in herself?

That she is GOOD ENOUGH for herself?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

GJam Story

I was feeling low, miserable and awful- which is quite a usual state for me. And whenever I do, I have this intense craving for something-anything- sweet. I just die for meetha...(which explains my size). Anyway, so on this day, my husband decided to make gulabjamuns for me.

Which was really sweet- not to mention ambitious of him.
He started with the Git GJam mix (you know, we, being the uber-cool gals that we were, called gulabjamuns GJams, golgappas Ggaps, Samosas Sams...etc. when in undergrad).

And before I knew it, he made a batter- yes, a BATTER- when it was supposed to be dough!!! We then started on the difficult business of converting batter to dough. Added tons of Maida, milk powder, sugar- and kept stirring. We still ended up with a sticky mix.

So finally, somewhere he decided that this was it. And went on to deep fry the lumps. Added them to the sugar syrup. And then hogged.
They were the best gjams of my life :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Borrowed Tag

A friend of mine tagged me on Facebook a few hours ago. And since I have nothing better to do with my life, I spent three hours doing the tag. Furthermore, I am reproducing it here- again, since I have nothing better to write about!

25 Random Facts About ... Me

1. My greatest desire in the whole world is to be thin- and it is also my greatest regret that till now, I have not been able to get there.

2. I cry in every single movie I see- even Shrek 3. Worst ever was Titanic, when I could not stop for 12 straight hours. And Veer-Zaara (don't ask).

3. I love FOOD- completely. Anything, anytime, any type. My wildest fantasies are ALL about food.

4. I am obsessive about dirty dishes and can't live with them. I have gotten up at 3:00 AM and cleaned the dishes (a number of times).

5. I love Shahrukh Khan. Completely.

6. I am an inveterate pill-popper and keep popping pills for the lamest excuses. Headache, stomache, lack of energy, any random pain, cold, laziness, grief, sulking, moody, unhappy, low... you name it, and I will promptly go and have a pill. And they DO make me feel better!

7. I love dancing. Its makes me feel really joyful. But only on Bollywood/ Bhangra.

8. The one thing I miss most about India is Chaat. And Golgappe. And Mithai. (its mostly all food).

9. I love BLING. The glitzier and shinier the better (that's the Punjabi in me).

10. I am the only one in my entire extended family to NOT have had an arranged marriage and the only one to have married outside my community.

11. I am a great Cook. I cook lovely tasty wonderful Indian food (mostly because I love food, and can't eat stuff I don't find delicious. So I make sure I cook it that way).

12. I have read more than 6,000 M&B's in my life (yes, now you know what a sucker I am for romance).

13. I can NOT eat sweet ice-cream. I have only had chocolate or coffee ice-cream for the last 18 years of my life. I hate ice-cream that is sweet!

14. I want to get my hair colored. Too scared about the consequences.

15. I am very scared of getting osteoarthritis/ porosis later in life and so I take calcium supplements daily.

16. I hate big cities and never want to live in one.

17. I want to see Europe- especially Rome and Venice- in my lifetime.

18. I am trying to start flossing daily but am too lazy. I only manage 2 times a week.

19. I have always wanted to get my nose pierced but am too scared and don't have the guts to go through with it. Also am not sure whether it will look good on me.

20. I love the smell of mingled cigarette smoke and sweet elaichi chai on a man's breath.

21. I have actually gone up to Nikhil Chinappa (MTV was visiting our college) and told him I loved him and that I had been in love with him for a number of years.

22. I really appreciate how all cars on the road stop when there is an ambulance/ fire engine/ emergency vehicle passing. This practice can mean a life saved- especially when I think about Indian traffic. So I am REALLY IMPRESSED with this.

23. I very often have nightmares in which my greatest fears materialize. I have often woken up crying or shaken/ scared.

24. I love dressing up in Indian clothes- and I think sarees/suits are way more graceful and beautiful than western wear.

25. I am one of the nicest people I know :)