Monday, August 27, 2012

Pain and Sharing

Living a private life versus living a public life is a result of our cultural environment, even more than our cultural proclivities. I was thinking about how my life was lived out almost in the public eye- by public, I mean ALL my relatives, extended family, friends, half of their extended families, the entire neighborhood, school, undergrad and grad school friends (and their parents)- when I was in India. I never thought much about this at the time. Everybody kind of knew what problems everybody else had, how they lived, how they ate etc. Mostly, people shared their problems, issues and sob stories with each other.

After living in the US for the last couple of years, I find myself trying to always portray a happy front to people (at least the people I do not count as close friends). I now seriously have a lot of hesitation before I share my pain or problems. Mostly, I just don't. I always say that I am okay. Even when I'm not. Even when I'm facing huge problems. The US has made me a lot more private. There are probably four people in the whole world who know my current pain. Unlike in India, when every person and their dog knew about it. 

What changed? For one, my cultural environment has had a huge impact on me. I share so much less of my problems now. Secondly, I always feel that nobody will be interested in my pain, since everybody has their own issues to handle. And lastly, I have lost touch with so many of my close Indian friends, and not made such close ones in this country. We've all gone our different paths. Yet, the closeness of school and college friends is irreplaceable. 

And of course, Facebook happened in the last few years. With it, came this need to always have the best me on show. An image, a facade, that is displayed to the world. A facade of a life lived to the fullest, of a life lived with the best of everything life has to offer. Facebook is all about pshopsha (the Punjabi readers should get this). So now, I am perpetually on display to the world and I need to uphold this happy, smiling, carefree, Super-self phantasm that I have created. 

I was thinking this morning about all this. About how I can no longer share my pain and sorrows easily. Mere halak mein mera dard atak jaata hai... and I swallow it back and in, and smile. I'm good, I say. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. Maybe I'm not sure anymore. 

Yes, at some level maybe even I swallow this pill I'm giving the world. Even I think life is okay. It is sanitized and harmless and hurtless. Maybe I need to peel off the blinkers and strive for more honesty with myself. Maybe, I can become my best friend again who will listen and talk and understand and encourage. Just maybe, I need to begin sharing with myself again before I can do it with the rest of the world.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Bhartiya Naari and the Bitch in Bollywood

How many of you out there remember the song "Wo Mera Hoga" , one of Ila Arun's superhit songs? I think it came out sometime in the 90's. About this guy who has two girls fawning over him, one an Indian 'modern'  woman who wears revealing clothes, drinks and smokes, and the other the gaon ki gori who is the 'good Indian girl'. The guy is promised to the modern woman and takes her back to his gaon for a visit, where the song actually happens. And the good girl's bhartiya sanskaar make the guy ditch his 'modern' girlfriend for the good girl. Moral of the story: Girls who drink and smoke do not get the guy.

So it is a bit discouraging that even after fifteen or so years have passed, the same idea was repeated in Cocktail. Yes, the good bhartiya naari who is religious, does puja regularly, does not drink or smoke or wear revealing clothes and washes ALL THE DIRTY CLOTHES in the house, is the one who gets the guy (yes, I kept wondering about the washing dirty clothes trope in the movie). Our patriarchal ideas about the women Indian men want to marry (as opposed to the women Indian men want to sleep with) does not change. Girls who are promiscuous, and indulge in such sins like drinking, are not the ones they want to take home to Mommy dearest. No matter that the girl is one of the most giving large-hearted generous and kind souls you would ever meet.

The sad part of the movie was Deepika trying to fit into the mould of the "good desi girl": wearing salwar-kameezes, doing puja and DOING THE LAUNDRY (yes, after all, that defines a good girl). Seriously, it is time to stop adapting to some impossible ideal of womanly goodness and virtue, and let the world accept that girls do party, like to drink and sometimes even sleep around (did I hear a few thuds and gasps!). And she tries to reform herself for a guy like Saif Ali Khan's character, who is basically a major sleaze/scumbag.

When do we stop obsessing over this approval for men, and their mothers? When do we realize that true goodness does not come from what we drink or what we wear, but from what we are? Aren't most of the women who are the perpetrators of female foeticide/dowry etc. all dressed in traditional Indian garb most of the time? Does that make them even remotely GOOD?

And when, oh when, do we stop this need for male approval? I was listening to the superhit song 'Tumhi ho Bandhu' from the movie.

And it says
"Jab yaar kare parwaah meri, mujhe kya parwaah iss duniya ki". 
Right. As long as my guy/man gives me love, care, validation and self esteem, I don't care about anything else. Bas my lover should care for me, and that is all that matters!!

This reminded me of another song that I have always had a bit of a problem swallowing, from the 1962 movie 'Anpadh'.

"Aapki nazron ne samjha, pyaar ke kaabil mujhe, dil ki ae dhadkan thaher jaa, mil gayi manzil mujhe" - Since your eyes now deem me worthy of your love, I now feel I have achieved my objective/destination.

Well, since I was/am nobody without your acceptance, thanks for the validation, guy! However, I've always controlled my irritation with the song because this movie was made in 1962! Also, the eventual premise of the movie is about the importance of women's education.

1962 and Cocktail in 2012! What has changed in these fifty years? Why hasn't Bollywood grown up? Or atleast, shaken off the shackles of the good bhartiya naari and shown us that the Bitch can win too? Isn't Bollywood itself being the demure, coy desi girl who craves the validation of the Indian masses and will therefore not let the Bitch triumph? Oh, but a time will come when the heart and what truly matters will shine through, when sanskaar will mean more than just dressing and behaving a certain way. I'm rooting for you, the Great Indian Bitch. Every dog has its day, and so does the Bitch!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Revenge of the Shoes!

A long time ago, I had talked here about my shoe addiction. How obsessed I was with shoes, and how I could never have enough. I had the chance to revisit this conversation with myself lately. You see, I've been doing a lot of shoe-shopping over the last few months (the benefits of finally FINALLY having a job). I went a bit overboard buying shoes of all and every design, shape and form.

Then I realized that I needed to think this through. Why this atavistic shoe compulsion? Sudden as a flash, I got my answer, an answer that was hidden in the depths of my yesterdays. I was (and still am) a tall, big girl (yes, that is a euphemism for fat). But there are enough fat people in India, so that is not the issue here, the issue was my height. I am very tall for an average Indian girl, a bit more than 5'8". And that means big feet. All my growing up years, I never could find pretty shoes/slippers/sandals for my big, fat feet.

Oh, I remember the snide insults of all the shoe-shop owners, "Ab itne bade pair hain to kya hi milega"... The only kind of shoes that I could get were the ugly broad black ones, made for somebody thrice my age. No amount of hunting would get me nice shoes-and if rarely I did find shoes that were my size, and pretty, they were inordinately expensive (atleast back then).

I am a shoe size 9, which is just fine in this country. I get every sort of style and design for my feet size, and nobody tells me that pretty shoes are not made for my big fat ugly feet. Nobody tells me that I can not wear heels because I am already so tall (there are tons of taller women here, and lots wear heels). Nobody tells me that the only shoes I can wear are the ugly ones.

Yes, that is why I buy shoes all the time. Pink ones and orange ones and red ones and heels and higher heels and Mary Janes and pumps and wedges and everything else! Because they fit, they look good and they are pretty. Because despite my big feet, I can still get any style I want. Because finally, this is my revenge on all those shopkeepers who broke my young girly heart back then.