19.11.08

Birds and bees don't have a penis

11 comments











"Don't they think about the children?" fumed my friend in the subject line of her email that contained these images. She has a 5-year-old daughter and lives in the US.

Despite my friend's obvious disapproval of the condom ads, I couldn't help but notice the detailing on the penises. Some art director somewhere either has a dubious clip art collection or must have spent his client's money scouting for models. Whatever be the case, other than some obvious ribaldry, I don't think the ads make the point strongly enough. If the purpose of a condom ad is to talk about safe sex, why mask it in stupidity? As for my friend's displeasure at the ads, I am not too sure I agree about keeping children in the dark about the facts of life.

While I wholeheartedly endorse promoting safe sex, letting kids know too much, too soon makes me a wee bit uncomfortable and a whole lot unsure. When is it too soon? Is it okay to mouth birds-and-bees till a certain age or is it better to tell them exactly what happens -- what sex is -- right from the start?

As a child I don't think I was ever overtly curious about how-babies-are-made. When I discovered, at age 11, what really happens between a man and a woman, it was by accident. I don't remember how the conversation came about between a bunch of 9-12 year kids, but I clearly remember this 8-year-old Sardarji who told us. "A man puts his thing in a woman's thing," he said and guffawed at the expression on our faces. Most of us had reacted with a "chhee". Much before I learnt the words 'penis' and 'vagina', a man and woman's private parts were just that, private.

While I've spoken three languages from the time I was eight-months-old -- English, Hindi and Bangla -- for a long time I didn't know a 'word' for a penis or a vagina. From shame-shame, to no-no, to chhee-chhee, to nangu; the terms I've heard were always about shame, guilt, taboo... always to be kept private and definitely not to be discussed or shown. The whole idea of showing 'it' to someone else and then things being put here and there was confusing, shocking.

The next shock came soon after. The realisation that love between a man and a woman was physical and had a lot to do with my body. It was my paternal grandmother who delivered it... She lived with us for three months in a year, had magic hands, knew Ramayana and Mahabharata both by heart and was an ace story-teller. Perhaps it was she and her stories of Krishna and rakshasas (demons) that make me so devour science-fiction-fantasy books now. She would have loved Harry Potter... Thamma would gently stroke my forehead and tell me bed-time stories. It was also at bedtime that she told me other stuff...

While my mother never discussed boys with me (hell I didn't even know I was supposed to have pubic hair and was initially quite distraught), Thamma took it upon herself to 'prepare' me for my future-husband-to-be. She told me four things. "A woman has to look good to keep her husband's love," was the first mantra. Coconut oil was the next. "A woman's hair is her true beauty," she would say, "...and regular oil in your hair will keep it soft for your husband to play with." The third was 'snowcream'. It was Lakme's vitamin-E rich cream that smelled divine, came in a white bottle with a blue lid and was white in colour. Thamma would laboriously apply 'snowcream' on my limbs with particular care to my ankles, knuckles and elbows. "Always keep your skin soft, no husband likes rough skin," she admonished. The final trick was the Importance of the Neck. "When you bathe, always scrub yourself properly and always, always keep your neck clean. That's where your husband will love you first," she said.

I have seen umpteen Hollywood movies where parents have The Talk with their children. I haven't spoken to current-generation parents but I know for a fact the topic is not something most Indian parents (my parents' generation) willingly discuss. Till date my mother has never spoken to me about sex (Pa is out of the question!).I don't know if Thamma had ever participated in debates on sex education, but I am grateful for what she told me... As shocked as I was with the idea of things being put in me, she at least let me know there was a physical side to love and that I should not be scared of it. Even if she just meant necking!

When Thamma 'prepared' me (1988), living-in, 'dating' and pre-marital sex were out of the question (particularly in India). Today, notwithstanding the Shiv Sena, open secrets and vociferous denials, they are a reality. So are HIV, teenage pregnancies and growing child abuse. Would I rather have my child not know the difference between a good touch and a bad touch or would I tell her what could happen? Do I want my teenage child confused about his/her attraction to the opposite sex -- and thereby either do something silly or feel guilty -- or do I want to be able to guide him/her to make a better, safer choice?

While I might not thrust a tumescent penis in my child's face -- like the ads, which are in stupid taste -- I could perhaps employ some of my Thamma's style and break the news gently. It doesn't have to be shock. Or guilt.

PS: I never replied to you when you sent me that email, so here is the answer. If your daughter sees that condom ad... don't hide the magazine or shut her eyes or tell her to be scared. Just explain and please give her the right terminology.

PS2: Just in case you all noted the headline and are wondering 'do birds have a penis', check the link for an accurate answer.

23.7.08

Hex appeal anyone?

6 comments
The Hindustan Times, July 24, 2008
"I get beaten up regularly, you will learn to adjust too," her to-be mother-in-law told her. Luckily she didn't take that parental advice and walked out a week before her marriage. She was 23. Another was not as lucky and grew to be very scared of the night, that's when her husband came back from work. She was 18. He never beat her, technically, but he raped her every night, every possible way. She took three years to get out of the marriage. Both women are 'comfortable' sharing their stories over a cup of coffee but neither of them is a blogger nor wants to be one either. One wonders if there would be any takers for their blogs or would they be labelled 'feminists' and cast aside?

It's ironic that while both 'feminine' and 'feminist' come from 'female', one conjures images of Marilyn Monroe's mystery, Sophia Loren's sensuousness and Bo Derek's twins; the other neither invokes such visual richness nor summons any pleasing reactions. 'Hard-nosed', bitch, needs-a-lay are just some of the polite words. Currently the blog world is divided over feminine and feminist too. Feminine will write about sex, or rather who she 'shags' (and how); feminist will write about who shagged her -- and then beat her.

If on one hand there's cleavage-baring (nice cleavage though) Zoe Margolis aka Abbey Lee aka Girl With A One Track Mind who gives insight on men-women-relationships with a generous dose of her generous , there's Fay Weldon who also gives insight on men and women but sans the cleavage or her sex life. She does write on sex though, more on the lines of "It's OK to fake an orgasm" or "Rejecting a lover can give you more gratification". Those are excerpts from an article she wrote on keeping men happy on Femail daily. If Abbey Lee talks about massaging a man's gonads, Weldon talks about squeezing the same to prove your point.

Feminine or feminist, all women seem to talk about bodies, babies, boobs and beatings. There's Samantha Brett on Ask Sam who answers dating and relationship queries. While Sam's writing is neither witty enough to compare with Abbey Lee nor scathing enough to match up to Weldon's, for some quick easy (at times, can-find-anywhere) advice on what's the right thing to do, she suffices.

For those who'd rather read fiction than facts, there's – hold your breath – Witchy Chicks who write fictional, sex-filled, lustful, orgasmic (etc, etc) stories on wicca, sex, women, sex, wizards, sex… Don't read for much quality – 'Hex Appeal' anyone? – but it's worth a laugh.

PS: Current status: No internet yet, course going fine, met awesome Sri Lankan girl, wore green socks yesterday that were called woolly mammoth and moss among other polite things. Cooked Indian dinner. Gave CV to chef saying I was a baker, he was Greek and said he will call back. So that I can bake for him. Like the idea, it should pay. Let's see. Gotta go, this is the library!!!

20.7.08

The Pope, politics and potty!

2 comments
In another hour or so I'll be heading for my first class. Let's see how that goes, kind of nervous. Even before classes, I found myself signing up for two campaigns. One supporting a change in abortion laws in Victoria (the state Melbourne is in) and another supporting the cause of giving transport (train/tram) concessions to international students and postgraduate students. Hmm. No, I hadn't planned to join in campaigns but I did. Hopefully there will be a workload from uni and hopefully it should not be boring. I am BLOODY bored and itching to get on with things.

While on one hand the media is/was abuzz with Pope Benedict's visit on the World Youth Day (misnomer though, should have been World Catholic Youth Day, since it seems the rest of the world's youth will really have no hand in world peace or such similar nice things), the other three big news are about Indian-origin doctor Jayant Patel being extradited from the US on charges of negligence and manslaughter while he was working at te Bundaberg hospital in Queensland, a senior foreign correspondent for commercial Aussie TV channel ABC being arrested in Singapore for trafficking 'ice' and Aussie PM Kevin Rudd being torn apart in the media because he said the C word. No, NOT 'clit' (bwahaha) but CARBON, rather carbon emissions. It's funny how earlier the media here loved to bash their PM-for-12-years John Howard and now has a gala time trying to make Rudd trip and fall. Funny how the media here is EXACTLY the same as the media back home. They even say wrong English on TV, "Dr Patel FLIED out of US this morning." Pray, what the eff is FLIED? That on national TV on a show called Sunrise. Perhaps the anchor needed some waking up.

However, unlike the Indian media, media criticism here is much rampant and much more scathing. While our NDTV does a good show in the form on 'Gustakhi Maaf' (lierally means 'pardon me', the puppet-based show anyone?) that critiques (more often ridicules) the politicians, we don't have ANYTHING that looks at the media as such. There's a show here called 'Media Watch' that does a darned good job of looking at what the media - print, online and TV -- is upto. From which journo was heard flirting on air, to putting his/her foot in the mouth, to what report was plagiarised, lacked facts or was botched and even taking down magazines for stupid captions -- they did on lag mag FHM, which had a caption for a camera saying something on the lines of 'Gave all paedophiles/pervs a hard-on when passing by the school.' IMAGINE having a show or even a column like that in India. What do you think will happen? 1. journalist will lose his/her job for suggesting such a column 2. Times of India will most probably start suing everyone involved. Anyone remember what happened to the Mediah blog?

While our desi papers and channels have a fair share of Australia-related news, the three news items I've read here that concerned India were 1. About Dhoni "saving himself" for the 20/20s or one-dayers and not playing in the Test. Someone tell Dhoni his hymen isn't involved. (2.) another about the nuclear deal going bust and India looking at imminent elections and how three politicians with criminal records will be released from jail to participate in the same and how India is one of the world's MOST corrupt nations (think we are number 7, have to check) and (3) Indian-origin doctor Patel news. I logged-in to ibnlive.com this morning and the first interesting news that was flashing was how
Indians beat the world in defecating in open places.

Wonder though if we should really feel bad about that since the British top the list when it comes to potty-bums -- defecating and not "washing" themselves. What's worse: Getting it out of the system in the open or letting some loving remains stick to you? Take your pick, leave a comment or mail me. We're talking shit again. ;)

Below is the column I wrote for HT last Thursday, which of course I forgot to put up. Mea culpa.

The Hindustan Times, 17th July 2008
The blogger’s world is abuzz with stay-at-home
single dads (and

beleagured moms)
who are sharing more
than just pictures of
their kids in the buff
Some parents have a strange habit of clicking pictures of their babies in the buff. With the Internet and blogging, some parents are also putting up those pictures for all and sundry to see. Either there should be legislation against allowing parents to click naked pictures of their kids or some sort of age of consent where kids have a say if they want the world to see those pictures. Parents need to be told that 2-year-old Ratan's picture showing his little wee-wee is really not funny when said Ratan, now 32, brings home the girl he wants to marry.

If on one hand Angelina Jolie's newly popped-out twins are sending the paparazzi in a tizzy to get that first shot (pray why, aren't all newborns red and wrinkled?), elsewhere dad and Australian newspaper The Age's art critic Robert Nelson, is in the midst of a media blitzkrieg for publishing naked pictures of his six-year-old daughter Olympia in the magazine's (Art Monthly) latest issue. While first he denied the pictures are sexual, an essay written on his wife Polixeni Papapetrou's blog seemed to say otherwise.

Perhaps Nelson needs to learn about parenting from mommy-daddy bloggers – parents who blog – who despite sharing regular insights on everything from baby poo, nappy rashes and when-to-wean-the-baby, don't put out naked pictures of their infants. While mommy bloggers come in all ages – from the to-be mommies, newly-mommies to wish-I-wasn't-mommy-because-the-tots-turned-to-teens – the daddy bloggers seem to be singularly of the same 'type'. Most are new dads, most are stay-at-home and most try to be funny. Some succeed.

Some of the daddies rue the time they were single, some of the dads are single and trying to juggle babies and booties and some dads are plain preachy. Writer, blogger, and divorced single dad David Mott invites voyeurs to his blog and offers stories, tips, and expert advice "in an age of online dating, friends with benefits, hookups and booty calls" on Dad's House. If he recommends a beach vacation as the best family outing, he also supports tantrix sex. "Cooking is sexy. Reading is sexy. Tantric sex is sexy. It's the fast-food guzzling, sports blathering, selfish lover sorts of men who are unmanly," says David supporting the cause of men-who-like-gourmet.

Reading through some daddy blogs breaks the myth that it's only women who 'think' babies all the time, men do too! However, unlike most mommy blogs, the daddy bloggers use more humour. Consider the issue of baby names for instance. Greg on Daddy Types suggests using drug names for baby names for originality. "Aren't Paxil, Ambien, and Cialis kind of cute names? Tramadol, Klonopin and Zyrtec, not so much."

7.7.08

Somalia, Sholay and Islam ...

8 comments
or, let's go to MelBUN!

Clich├ęs have an irritating habit of being bloody true. Beyond laughing at other accents – including the Indian non-accent – and enjoying Peter Russel who disdainfully rips apart almost all tongues, I really had not realized the true import of the phrase “lost in translation”. Till last afternoon when due to my own stupidity, I roamed around for 15 minutes in a cab when I was just a block from our house in Melbourne (we are in an area called Flemington).

I am NEVER going to ridicule people who go abroad and give up their native accents. Hours have I spent laughing at people who go the US or another Western country and develop a nasal twang. Or for that matter at Partner who was rapidly losing his Australian accent and would sound Indian, almost. I have an awesomely pronounced Indian accent and though I speak good English – and Aussies speak ‘Australian’ NOT English – my interactions and conversations with people have been bloody interesting. For one, despite knowing English I can convey MORE through sign language than I can through words!!!

I am being forced to attach an ‘i’ to my vowels and though I think I am doing a horrible job at saying words the Aussie way, people here seem to understand almost anything better than desi accents. Hrmph. Since I cannot keep up with this longer and even the last four days have been enough to make me forget HOW a word is pronounced, think I will have to change the accents of the people around. Let’s see. People don’t understand when I say I’m living in MelBOURNE… unless I say it’s ‘MelBUN’. Why not spell like that as well?

So I got into this cab yesterday and asked the dude to take me to ‘Sturt’ street. He took me to Stop street or something like that and we were both lost. Since I was VERY nervous, I chattered a mile-a-minute and despite pronouncing everything in a way he couldn’t understand, we got talking. He was from Somalia, works 10 hours and has four children. The oldest is 8 and the youngest is a year-and-a-half. “We are creating an African village here,” he said laughing. If his candidness at that was refreshing – couldn't help but think of Narender Modi’s, “Hum paanch, hamare pachchis?” (We five, our 25, alluding to Islam allowing four fives and five kids off each wife) – what was to follow knocked my socks off. When I told him I was from India, he beamed in the rear view mirror and said, “I used to watch a lot of Indian movies in Somalia. I love the one where they toss a coin to decide everything. Sholaiye it was called. Jugnu was a good movie too.” So what if Melbournians don’t understand my accent, Bollywood is conquering the world!

Laughing at yourself is an art, it shows humility and shows you are neither scared nor ashamed to be yourself. It’s something I can do only when I am very comfortable with the people around. Hmm. There are some who just can’t see the lighter side of life and take everything too seriously. Like the Pakistani boy who sat next to me on the Bangkok-to-Melbourne leg of my flight. “Do you know Quaid-e-Azam?” he asked. I didn't and he mocked me saying he knew Gandhi and was shocked that I didn’t know “Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.” Well I ‘knew’ Jinnah but my general knowledge being sucky, didn’t know he was called Quaid-e-Azam (great leader). My history books (sadly) didn't teach me to look at him that way. THEN the kid asked if I liked poetry. I refused again since I really don’t understand poetry and was playing sudoku and didn’t want to be disturbed. THEN he asked if I knew Prophet Muhammad. I said yes I did and the dude launched into some Urdu shaayeri. By now I had had enough conversation and asked him why he was insisting on TEACHING me about Muhammad. “As a Muslim it’s my duty to spread the message of Islam.” To those who might not be interested? Why?

That incident apart, it’s been an interesting four days. It’s amusing at times, at times worrying, the way India is perceived. At times, there’s nothing to do but accept that we are ‘like this only’. As we argued over Partner wearing the seat belt, Partner’s 16-year-old piped in, “Do you have seat belts in India?” To my ‘of course yes’, he was rather surprised and said, “But why? People sit on top of trains there!” Well, I told him that India is trying to patent seat-belts for on-top-of-the-train rides and he nearly believed it. *grin* But then maybe we should, seat belts and double decker trains. India 2050. What say?

PS: It’s like old days right now, notes in diary and then typing them out later; will be more regular once I have my own computer. How’s everyone?

3.7.08

Ok tata, bye bye!

18 comments
Oi people,

As of tonight, am flying out to join Partner in Melbourne. It's a year and a half of studying and writing and missing Delhi and those I met here... and learning a new way of life. DAMN. I won't lie, I am excited, nervous, terrified and cannot eat anything right now. Bile tastes real yucky I tell you.

Hopefully Melbourne and me will adapt to each other and no one will feed me to the crocodiles. Given my size and lack of meat, don't think the crocs will enjoy me either. Have no idea about jelly fish though and prefer to see them from this side of a glass wall under artificial life. I SUCK at sport and need to learn swimming. I can only doggy paddle now and the lack of a tail makes that difficult as well. As for 'net ball', playing it with specs on is kinda tough and without the glasses I am blind.

Then again, people have told me they enjoy my food BUT I don't think Aussie dishes use haldi (turmeric) or garam masala. So tad nervous about how does one know when a steak is rare and when its medium-rare when cooking at home. And the moment I think of how happily a kangaroo hops BEFORE it lands on the dinner table reduces me to tears. But then, if i am quite happy watching a chicken die and eating it, i hope i can harden my heart about the roos as well. HRMPH. Shall learn.

Recently when packing, my dad called my clothes 'chindhi', which means 'rags' in Hindi. Now that has made me nervous too since well, I wear small things and well, if I dont like the size I tend to run scissors through it. So well, a lot of my clothes have irregular hemlines because I have chopped them off. And some of my favourites are stuff that have Golu -teeth marks on them... And chicks in Melbourne dress real well... Man!

My best friend called - and she's studied and lived overseas a lot -- and told me to take it easy. So well, no more frantic typing for lack of anything better to do. Shall keep repeating the following to self:

1. What I don't know I can learn.
2. What I cant wear, I shall carry off like the latest fashion statement.
3. NEVER to embarrass my Partner. (will need practice)
4. Learn to keep my mouth shut or speak softly if at all I get the itch to say it as-is.
5. TRUST people. HMMM.

OH... PLEASE mail me your phone numbers and email ids as my current Delhi phone will be out and I am most likely to lose the SIM to retract numbers from it. Eve Emancipation the blog, will continue...let's see if it changes or how. And perhaps Mishraji will visit Melbourne...

To all I have met along the way -- sorry if I said and did things you didn't deserve and if you DID deserve those, let's hope we can start afresh some other time. If you're not interested, let me know, will save me trouble. (Woman, you just said 'learn to keep my mouth shut!)

Aaaaaaaaaa, am blabbering. Am off for second cup of coffee and DO something about this drasted RAT that's running around my friend's house and has jumped OVER my legs twice. Shit rodent.

Ok tata bye bye!!!

30.6.08

Mosquito makes man a eunuch!

9 comments
Once upon a time, when doing Yugpurush or something similar, actor Nana Patekar said, “Ek machhar aadmi ko hijda bana deta hai.” (A single mosquito can turn a man into a eunuch). He is so bloody right.

While I am still much a woman, I HATE mosquitoes with every last red blood corpuscle that I have in my body (and the ones the winged bastards have not sucked out). I am currently at my parents place – not Kolkata as someone masquerading as me has typed in the chat box – and I look as if I’ve had red-spot tattoos on my body. My legs, arms, thighs and back are dotted with itchy, little red dots no-thanks to the mosquitoes that have been having a week-long buffet on my body.

Seriously, if you are bothered by mosquitoes and need a solution, invite me over. I seem to act like some sort of mosquito repellent for other people since when I am around, the shits ONLY bite me. So much for us humans being the smartest of all species as we still have not been able to control moskies. Once the science text books spoke of having eradicated malaria, now it’s back full swing. Not to mention dengue, also perpetrated by the blood suckers.

Mosquitoes have no conscience. They will bite you when you are celebrating your happiest moment or lamenting a loss. They will bite you when you are killing yourself to meet a deadline and even when you are making love. A mosquito bite during sex is VERY inconvenient. First you have to stop, then you have to scratch and if you can’t reach the spot, you have to ask your partner to scratch. Bloody romance killers.

I don’t know the species of mosquitoes that are now around but I can personally vouch that these parasites have evolved.

Earlier if you lit a Kachua coil (Tortoise brand mosquito repellants that are burnt and the fumes are meant to kill them), the moskies would fly helter-skelter. It was good fun watching them try and escape the fumes, smother in frustration and collapse. Then when Good Knight mats hit the market, the little blue tablets did pretty much the same thing. NOW though, the moskies seem to have competitions diving INTO the fumes of the kachua coil. And I swear to the lord, I have seen at least three moskies sitting ON a hot, supposed-to-kill-them Good Knight mat and getting a tan.

I have seen moskies the size of my nose in Sikkim and have heard stories those could kill a horse. I am much smaller though thankfully those never bit me. Apparently Norway has mosquitoes the size of airplanes and drivers are asked not to collide with them. :[ Here at my parents place they aren’t that big, but are just as mean and just as skilled in the art of giving maximum pain. They also seem to compete in who can give me the biggest bump that later turns into an angry red burn that stays for a week and itches me.

For one, there are the guerilla mosquitoes. These are the ones you will never see till they bite you. Even after that and sitting with your eyes plastered on the walls and trying to find them, you will never manage to catch one and YET be bitten WHILE you are hunting for them. Some brazen ones seem to mock me by buzzing from right under my nose.

Then are the F-51 jet-mosquitoes. These dudes attack in a formation and make a straight dive for you. So while you try to defend yourself from five, there’s another two choosing that tender spot at the back of your neck, or behind your knee, or between your toes, or on your eyelid. Have you ever been bitten on your eyelid? I have just been, even as I type this. Shits.

I am sure at least some of you have encountered the Phoenix mosquitoes: You squash them in your hand, or against the table or on the notebook and JUST AS you think they are dead and remove your hand, the bastards zoom off. They DON’T die, they rise from the dead! Some of the Picasso mosquitoes also display the phoenix trait. Picasso moskies are the ones that bite in a pattern… Like I discovered five bumps on my thigh after my video game session last night and realized the bites looked like a flower. Or bites that are in a zig-zag or some such pattern. I appreciate artistic license and all that, but not with my blood dudes.

It’s a pain, sitting and writing here because I have suffered serious blood loss by the time I am done with 500 words. And now that I have to go and play my last round of Empire Earth – can beat the computer in the island scenarios but am thwarted when I choose the land scenarios – as tomorrow this time I will be on a train, I dread the bites I will have. Sigh. If only I could bite the bastards and make them feel the pain. If only.

PS: Um, have you heard of any women addicted to video games or a particular video game? My father reckons I am going to destroy my still-to-be-made family because I forget to make breakfast as I am playing a video game. If you know of girls who play games AND still manage to run families, do share. I will tell my father. Sigh. Going now, my kingdom calls.

26.6.08

Delhi Decade, so long

12 comments
I've lived 10 years in Delhi and changed umpteen houses, even worked just 15 minutes from it but I've NEVER been to Chandni Chowk. Thankfully as part of my job, I saw some bits of Delhi that I otherwise wouldn't. Like the autorickshaw colony near Karkardooma airport at 1.30 am, sitting in an auto and trying to 'buy' ganja/marijuana so I could then do a bust-up, a crime story.

Or sitting in one of the GB Road (red light area in Delhi) brothels with the prostitutes, preparing for a role where I played a prostitute. They have wooden planks for beds and the girls mostly wear dirty nighties. The 'madams' were all unanimously fat. The married ones I spoke to, their families don't know they are prostitutes. Some have teenage daughters and don't want them to come to Delhi.

Discovering the Sundar Nagar nursery near the Nizamuddin tomb (and dargah) when doing the Commonwealth Games village story. Or for that matter rolling in shit and mud to slide under a barbed wire to get shots from inside the construction area for the tv special. Or climbing on top of a truck with guards threatening to beat us and pull us down... But strangely, there were no death threats. Strange because I got two you-will-be-bumped-off calls and an abduction threat when I used to write restaurant reviews and covered parties...all because this big-time restaurant near Qutub Minar was doing a fraud and we were to publish that story.

I also recognised certain personal facets. That I find it difficult to live with people and that people wholeheartedly reciprocate that! Or learning that audience/reader memory is really short. And they can love or hate you for their own reasons and it has nothing to do with good writing or bad. Or that you really don't need to write regular emails or call constantly with good friends. And that I have very few good friends.

Learnt from an HR that 'talent is recognised but character is rewarded'. Basically meaning you could be a talentless arsehole but if you suck up to the boss, you will get a good raise. It applies to ALL jobs. Of course that HR has an 'I' silent before it which stands for Inhuman Resources, they
never think of employee benefits. Or that if you don't show your spine, people will think you don't have one and to prove it, once in a while you need to squeeze their balls to drive home the point. When you hurt peoples' balls, they seem to understand your viewpoint rather quickly. However, it doesn't win you friends and could jack your career in the long run.

I could go on but (un)fortunately, all my thoughts are currently on juggle-mode in my brain so it's muddled about what to pick, sort, edit and put out before you. In short, quit my job, packed my house and moved from Delhi on June 25th - the silence has been because of parents visiting, sending Golu Dawg to another family, thinking that the family will eat him, Golu getting depressed and being returned to us, finding a new home for him, getting hooked to a stupid PC game called Empire EArth, playing it for 6 hours straight and pissing off Partner, Papa getting worried that I will get addicted and will leave my baby crying because of video games. No, I don't have a baby right now but my Dad saw 3 years into the future and predictedI am currently at my parents' place and waiting. Being completely dazed when the packers came, passing through our going-away parties completely dazed as well... And now, I have to wait, hate it, but I have to... Do I miss Delhi? Too soon yet, I think of her but that's about it. And bloody Blogger would not let me upload pics. (grumpy)

25.6.08

Been there, done that, for all to see

5 comments
Apologies for the vanishing act. Was moving cities and am not in Delhi anymore. Where to and what now, will surely update when the time is opportune. A lot has passed, moving from a city that was home for a decade but never really took me as one of her own, making friends with people who were like passing ships through my life -- stop, dock, refuel and move -- to those I started out fighting and then became friends with, my entire career and the start of an 'independent' life where I learnt a lot and made more mistakes (new ones each time too!)... Changing so many houses, losing hope in humanity and regaining it through a certain dimpled smile and looking forward to something so new, so different, so challenging that I think I am still in shock. Golu Dawg did NOT die, he has been put up for adoption. So much more but in time...


Hindustan Times, June 26,2008
Been there, done that, for all to see
There are three distinct changes in travel today: One, you don’t ‘go to grandma’s’ for all holidays, you don’t have to buy extra film roll anymore and you can upload a picture from your mobile to your blog and show-off instantaneously. Today, as much as travel is about seeing the world, it’s also about showing the world.
With every new travel photograph uploaded on social networking sites and more pins on their “where I’ve travelled’ maps, holidaying is now about where you’ve been and how many know about it. For the choice of destination, experts to backpackers, everyone has an experience to sell. If a tour operator like Intrepid Travel promises off-the-beaten-track tours, Bug Bitten offers been-there-done-that travellers’ recommendations on where to go. With more people blogging their experiences, you realize that flight turbulence scares everyone, no one is happy with the service and despite technology, the seats in planes and trains are still uncomfortable. Greg Messon of Greg Messon’s Esoteric Earth writes simply, with much (often lengthy) detail and often echoes other people’s thoughts when he blogs, “I never quite got comfortable in my seat, so sleep never came, however I was at least able to watch 3 movies on my personal entertainment unit…” Or when Chris blogs on The Art of Non-Conformity saying, “It takes a long time to get to Jerusalem from Seattle, especially if you’re planning your trip around the lowest ticket price…”
Through pictures, text and videos, travel blogging is one of the hottest blog topics.And people are finding creative ways of story telling.
One of most popular forwards was the video of Matt Harding, the software engineer who quit his job and traveled the world, dancing before various places and monuments. Freelance illustrator and graphic designer Mike does it through sketches on Blogshank.
From the usual I-did-this-went-there blogs to Cranky Flier who follows every airline development fanatically and the blog Hope and Healing that chronicles the lives of two physicians who’ve been working in Liberia, travel is getting a new dimension. It also makes for open criticism. Tony France rues the end of class in luxury planes, “With their reputation for engineering, I can well believe that, back in the day, Lufthansa had better seats but it was a no-brainer that Air France had better food!”
This column appears every Thursday in The Hindustan Times

19.6.08

Boys will be bloke bloggers

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The Hindustan Times, June 19, 2008
Myth-buster # 1: Men are blogging away and most of them aren’t tapping away about sports and electronics, but about health, fashion and – of my god! – home improvement

Here are two of the greatest myths about men: one, men don’t blog much; two, men think about sex every seven seconds. A quick search reveals that not only do men blog, they do so on topics other than HTML codes or battery-operated devices. Relationship author John Gray and company have long blamed men for being ‘non-communicative’. Not in cyberspace at least. The boys blog it all: weight, fashion, relationships, sex – and even – babies. Sample this: “The gym is a place that used to silently mock me whenever I walked by: Hey fatty, you enjoying that fifth slice of pizza?” blogs Arjewtwino. While he discusses weight issues and fashion – “I just don’t know what to wear, I’m packing for my trip to NYC” – he also writes on ‘men’ subjects like his favourite soccer team, food (a favourite with boy bloggers) and being kicked in the gonads. “…I always wondered from the worst moment of my life: what was the science of getting hit in the nutsack?” he writes, not something you’ll find on a woman’s blog.

Despite blogging on similar issues, humour differentiates ‘bloke’ blogs from the ‘babe’ ones. If ‘I am woman, hear me roar’ is the underlying tone in babe blogs, the boys do it in a more self-deprecatory manner. Even home-maintenance sounds funny. The Home Improvement Ninja blogs: “I had hoped that by killing all of them (mice)… it would forever deter others from ever trying to come back. Unfortunately, mice have a short memory.”

While ‘tags’ (blog lingo for topics) include hitherto ‘chick’ issues – no moisturizers yet, but grooming figures – don’t think that bloke bloggers are any less ‘men’ than the boys who only blog on tech or electronics. However, they do seem more open in challenging so-far accepted-male-behaviour. Tearing apart the much-man-loved movie Fight Club, the Ninja blogs: “Some guys think this movie is great… (they) hide their insecurities by fawning over this homo-erotic ritualized violence and faux philosophy about why it's okay to be a underachiever with no direction.”

While he declares “all men are liars”, 2006 Best Weblog Awards-winning blogger, Sam deBrito too does his bit in accepting men might not always be right and takes on the how-to-be-man concept. “I had also unknowingly bought into the gender propaganda that insists a guy must be A, B and C and done my part to propagate it to other men and women,” he writes. An insight into the mind of men is what bloke bloggers have to offer, peppered with sports statistics and humour. And it seems, at times, honesty.

15.6.08

Not scared to be me

7 comments
So the latest reader-development in this blog was the ‘coming out’ of our very own ‘N’, who is now ‘Silbil’ and has thankfully reclaimed her identity as the author of Alu Chaat. Is it because she is now comfortable being ‘herself’? Or is it because while leading us to her blog, she still remains as anonymous to us/ readers/world, as she was before? Are you and I on the internet because while it let’s us connect with people, it keeps us safe and anonymous behind a wall (or monitor)? All those who exclusively blog about their lives, are they writing the absolute truth or the versions of the truth they want us to hear? And above all, when you read, comment or blog, is it because you want the world to know you and your thoughts or because you can hide the ‘real’ you?


This article talks about "coming out" on the Internet and flashing your individuality. It was the cover story for What’s Hot (The Times Of India), published on September 8, 2006.
Not Scared To Be Me

Sexy photographs, smart profiles. Fans, friends. Stalkers, networkers. Everyone has attitude and everyone’s wired in. Jhoomur Bose logs in to the World Wide Web…
"Want to know some of the effects of losing my anonymity? (a) All my friends now know how often I masturbate, what turns me on, and how obsessed with sex I am. (b) As does everyone I’ve ever worked with in the film industry. (c) As do my cousins, aunts and uncles as well. Beat that. (Not literally. Yuck.) (d) My sex drive has gone kaput. Having something sleazy printed about me in a national newspaper, with photographers sitting on my and my parents’ doorstep didn’t make me horny, it made me stressed, anxious, and lack sleep for ten days. (e) I cannot write on the blog, as I once did. Right now, I don’t know how, or in what capacity, I can write on here again. Thanks very f*****g much for outing me, you bastards."

Above is an excerpt from the August 26 entry on ‘Girl With A One Track Mind’, the blog recently published as an eponymous book. The blogger-author called herself ‘Abbey Lee’, till a newspaper reported her ‘real’ identity was ‘Zoe Margolis’. Her life isn’t the same. Zoe was doing the same thing as a million others: using the Internet and its promise of (some sort of) anonymity to either live out a fantasy or aspects of their lives unacceptable to society. Zoe’s isn’t the only case. Recently there were stripper and call girl Mimi and Belle de Jour, respectively, whose anonymous blogs (sex, life and perspective) have been published as books. Zoe, Mimi, Belle… they sought cyberspace for its ‘no identity, no problem’ philosophy.

But there are also those who couldn’t care less about anonymity and flaunt their identities. They don’t want to live out fantasies—they want to be themselves. Their profiles scream ‘I, me, myself'. The new Netizen is part of an e-junta (complete with picture and profile) and s/he wants to be known—worldwide.

"40 countries, 12 boats, 37 flights, 46 assholes and over a year later... Writing, avoiding...and campaigning for immigrants whilst musing on anal sex and pissing off the religious right." —Introduction on Mimi, a New York stripper’s non-anonymous blog

READ ME, KNOW ME, LOVE ME

“We are not scared of ‘what will the world think of me’ anymore. It’s liberating to put forth your point and have many more responding to that point. It’s amazing to see so many varied opinions people have. It allows you, if needed, to change your thinking." —Vertika Yadav, PR consultant

A profile screams, “If I like you, I’ll be good to you.” Porn site? No, the author’s attitude towards “those who don’t have the patience to read what I have to say.” Sofi says, “I write about things people shy away from, so there are many who come just to check me out.” And her site? What? She doesn’t want it printed, for it will bring unnecessary attention! “I’m not ashamed of what I have to say. But it’s for the like-minded people I want to reach out to.” Reaching out to like-minded people, forming communities based on shared interests, meeting other members… the Internet user transitions from Anonymous to Affable!

There are some who still want to remain anonymous, and some of them don’t even write sex blogs. The reason? Fear of ridicule. Take Piali Sharma. She wants to join a networking site, but with an assumed name and no picture. Why join at all? “My anonymity gives me access to people’s innermost thoughts, which they might not reveal if they knew who I was. That apart, I’m basically shy and don’t really want to go all out… How do you know how people will react to what you say?” Some people don’t put up their pictures either for fear of being recognised — writing nasty comments about your boss with your picture up there WILL get you into trouble! — or for fear of the pictures being misused. Damn you, digital demons.

But the new flamboyant breed takes the Net to the next level. They are not scared of revealing themselves, of speaking their minds, of uploading their mug-shots. They will party at night with ‘real’ friends and log-in the morning after to describe the fun they had. For some, it’s the thrill of meeting new people. For others, it’s about putting ideas out there—for those who agree and for those who disagree. Says Piali, “It requires a certain character to bare it all. That’s not me. Neither can I handle so many ‘friends’. I’m more the one-friend type.” For better or for worse, the Internet gives you the chance(s) to forge a broader circle of acquaintances in a time when finding and maintaining meaningful friendships is getting tougher.

"It’s the time of collaboration and sharing and it’s booming as humans inherently want to connect." —Satish Warier, manager, menwhopause


SINGLE PEOPLE, ALONE TOGETHER?
"My profile has not been made to impress you. If you don't like it you are more than welcome to leave." —From the online scrapbook of a feisty female, in response to the usual "Will you be my frand" query on networking sites.

And so, we the people, are connecting and the global village is shrinking to a global neighbourhood. Yet, ironically, dissident voices blame the Internet for a not-so-pleasant phenomenon: social isolation. In June 2006, an authoritative study in American Sociological Review found that the average American had only two close confidants, down from an average of three in 1985.

Basically, the Americans and the rest of the world has fewer ‘real life, close friends.’ But isn’t loneliness part of life today—with or without the Internet? “Alone-in-a-crowd has become the norm,” says psychiatrist Dr Jitendra Nagpal. True too, what with people living thousands of miles away from home, when social and professional circles merge because of 12-hour jobs and commuting for another four and when finding time to hang out at the mall or meet friends for a stroll is tough. Suddenly, the only way for friends and family — dotted across the globe—to be together is in a virtual time zone, as bright green dots on Google Talk.

In this situation comes the saviour of the lonely planet—a dating site, a networking community, your personal blog and the tag of a 1000 ‘friends’ on your profile. Logging on is panacea. So, how then is the Internet making us asocial?

“We are communicating more but we are losing out on non-verbal, emotionally-flavoured conversation,” says Jitendra. Navin from Fropper.com differs. “Earlier, I wouldn’t get to meet people if I were working away from home. Today, I can interact daily, instantly, even share photographs, audio, video. Personal interactions are superior but infrequent. The Internet comes in to fulfil the human need for communication.”

For Erin McKean of Dressaday.com, it’s about meeting like-minded people: “The Internet is not (always) a bunch of computers talking to each other! It’s made by people, for people. In Chicago, where I live, I know barely six people who are interested in sewing to the degree I am. Online, I know over 100! The Internet makes it much easier to find people who share your interests.”
Shared interests. Time to kill. Research. Time-pass. The Internet does many things...but somewhere one wonders: is it taking us away from ‘real’ life, people and situations?

“What do you mean ‘lonely’? I have 1032 friends on Myspace!” —Blogger refuting he logs on because he is ‘lonely’

FRIENDS FOR LIFE, ADDICTED FOR LIFE 2?
“He would return from work at 10 pm, race through dinner and then log on… till 6 am! Emails, chats, webcams… I couldn’t take it anymore. People who weren’t even there were more important to him.” Radha divorced her husband because he “wanted to be online all the time”.
Priya is paranoid about her 13-year-old. “Earlier, he would meet friends in the park to play, talk, do whatever kids do. Then he discovered the Internet. Now his gang has broken up; most of them have online friends. I hate to see him gaping at the monitor, rather than playing outside.”

‘Losing’ loved ones to the Net goes beyond porn. Addictions could be any and many: gaming sites, word puzzle sites, dating sites, photography sites, horoscope sites, DIY sites… And perhaps the biggest of them all—writing your thoughts and having people read and react.

Experts say it’s about drawing your own limits. “It’s a vice if you make it a vice. Spending all your time on the Net at the cost of everything else is bad,” says Navin. Jitendra reiterates, “The moment you compromise on your day-to-day social activities, you know you are overdoing it.”

“It is a presumption that anonymity is what works with people on the Net,” says Navin Mittal, head of operations, Fropper.com. “Yes, it is important for certain services, but it is not the biggest deal. Think about it: you divulge your identity when registering for an e-mail or seeking membership to a community. Even e-mails can be tracked through IP addresses, so to say that anonymity is the Internet’s biggest draw is false. The biggest draw is the fact that the Internet really draws you closer, the fact that the Web has permeated the lives of people more so than it had about five years ago.”

And if anonymity was really that big, social networking wouldn't be making such a bang in the global and Indian cyberspace. W limits, cyberia opens a plethora of possibilities. Meet, mate, chat, catch up, show off… As long as you’re in control of your life—virtual and real—you’ll do just fine. Go on, log in!

BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

There are profiles and then there are profiles that grab eyeballs. Often it is pictures, oftener still it is a smart tag-line. A sample of some of the profile tags that ‘sell’ today:

...Would you believe everything I told you about myself?
... Independent, strong-willed, love animals, love Tolkien’s imagination, dream to have a room full of JUST books one day.
... Funny, messy, irresponsible, quick-witted guy, who thinks no end of himself!
... For those who know me, I don’t really need an intro. And for the losers who don’t know me, they can find out what they’re missing
...I have my own rules to live my life. And sometimes, just for kicks, to boost my rebellious nature I like to break them. Can you handle that?
... At heart, I am a drugged out, wasted (and obviously long-haired) hippy with a serious break from reality
... I like deep people, people whom I can’t just read off the the surface. I like to explore new tongues ;) and can speak quite a few lingos
... I want people to know who I am, and as far as my pictures go...I am not ugly!

12.6.08

Love, Sex and Lies: Surviving, Marriage

11 comments
Today my parents completed 30 years of being together (32 if you count the two years of courtship) and to be very honest, it completely astounds me how they have managed to be together. Papa likes watching National Geographic, English movies and calls Hindi soap operas rona-dhona (weepies); Mamma watches soaps and loves Hindi movies. He was the most charming bachelor (think he was a player, never dared to ask so far, will do though!), a very good singer-dancer and an excellent public speaker. She was a beautiful girl, insecure, no talent for singing or dancing and a complete introvert. He had traveled a fair bit, had a sense of style, loved books and his English and had a sense of ‘class’. She had never been anywhere except her maternal home and Jabalpur, adored Rajesh Khanna, read only Denise Robins and Mills & Boon and spoke passable English.


They met at her grandma’s place, where he had come to visit another relative, slipped on a wet floor, she had laughed and he had been smitten. Despite their obvious differences, she refused to let anyone insult him – his family was known for their temper and he was short (5 feet 5”) – and he overruled his mother and refused to take any gifts from anyone. His mom wanted a carpet, a vehicle and what not, he refused to “accept” his bride in anything but “the sari she has on her body.” And that’s how he got her home. She got her Prince Charming but there was no kingdom. There was a baby on their first anniversary and at the meager salary Army officers got back then, they had to sell off whatever little jewellery she had. From having the most exotic and latest collection of colognes, the latest chart busters and a weakness for classic, expensive ties, he went to being happy with his quota of cigarettes, his rum and buying expensive dolls for his three-year-old.


As we grew up, she often complained about him not helping in the house, of being domineering and a tyrant. He in turn blamed her for being a nag, a party-pooper and for speaking “Mrs Pinto’s English.” She still cannot pronounce ‘statistics’ properly. Yet if he bought me my early books and read some of them, it was she who explained the meaning and encouraged me to participate in debates, dance competitions, speech contests… And they both stood proudly when we did well at school. The only times I have seen my parents kissing is when he would be going out-of-station; then too a chaste, gentle kiss on the mouth, with all attempts to NOT do it before the children. Hmm. I’ve never heard them exchange I-love-yous. Yet he completely broke down the one time she fell really ill. (Strangely, Ma’s never fallen ill! Touch wood) I was 14 and Ma was in the hospital and Papa had not shaved – blasphemy when you’re an officer – and had called me and said, “Mamma is ill, you’re the lady of the house, you have to help Papa, you know Papa is not too good with housekeeping.” That after he had refused to let me make tea because, “My daughter will not work in a kitchen,” from a man who needed his meal to be “proper”. After two days of washing dishes, I promptly fell ill (weak shit) and Mamma miraculously recovered. That was the only time I’ve seen her resting.


If I were to apply my Rules of Relationship Maintenance (as Partner calls them), their marriage should not have lasted. It has. Can I do the same, make a relationship last? Can you? Can we?


This is a cover-story I had done for What’s Hot, a Friday-pullout published for The Times of India; used to be their features editor then. Perhaps I'd do the article somewhat differently today... A two-years-old article (first published August 25, 2006), the questions still remain…


Age old marriage, same old questions

Armed truce? Loving someone else? Money? Kids? Jhoomur Bose finds out the little things creating big problems in marriages today

Infidelity is the flavour of the season. If the column space, film reel and talk time given to the phenomenon are anything to go by. Blame it on Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar for showing the ‘reel’ face of Indian marriage where couples fall in love with someone else and go looking for happiness outside marriage (Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna). But is that really the case? Are we ready to leave our partners for that elusive soul mate who might be waiting somewhere? Or are we looking for the love we thought we would find in marriage, but didn’t?

What’s Hot conducted a survey and asked 200 married people to find out if they would break their marriages for love—outside marriage. A whopping 73 per cent said they would NOT leave their partners for another. This is where it gets interesting. On the one hand, most say they will not leave their spouses. So if couples today are not leaving each other, does that mean Marriage has survived? Experts tell us that it might just have, but with a new set of problems and a new set of understandings. Marriage today means...

THE SURVEY

Is love with someone else possible when one is already married?

Yes: 73% No: 27%


If love happens outside marriage, should one leave the current

partner? No: 70% Yes: 18% Unsure: 12%


If a married friend leaves his/her spouse, will you be okay with it?

Yes: 72% No: 28%

If your partner falls in love with someone else, how will you react?

Will let them go: 57%, Will hurt, but will stay: 26%, Will have no issues: 10%, No issues if platonic: 7%


TOO MUCH, TOO SOON

“And they lived happily ever after” is one of the most tragic sentences in literature. It’s tragic because it’s a falsehood. It is a myth that has led generations to expect something from marriage that is not possible.” — Joshua Liebman, author

Expectations. The one word that usually sounds the death knell for innumerable marriages. The expectation usually comes with a ‘high’ attached to it and also with varying stages of ‘unpreparedness’ for marriage. Says Sanjeeta, clinical psychologist, St. Stephens Hospital, “Readiness to marry is very important when two people tie the knot. However, that does not happen. People today plunge into marriages with a lot of unreal expectations, when they are not even prepared for marriage and have no clue of what marriage entails. Disillusionment is inevitable.”

Take Ruth and David,* who were college sweethearts. However, once they were married, love flew out of the window as soon as they were confronted with the mundane tasks of life. While Ruth had been the princess of her house and hadn’t ever lifted a finger, David too had been a pampered child and was expecting his wife to look after him like his mother did. Result? Ruth felt inadequate, she couldn’t “live up to his expectations.”

Sanjeeta points out that it’s not the major flare-ups that cause problems in marriages, but the smaller, seemingly trifling issues. “When both parties realise that marriage is not a bed of roses, when reality hits home, the men turn alcoholic, even violent, and the women go into depression.” Tarot reader Poonam Sethi, spiritual guru Yogi Ashwani or Sanjeeta, ask any expert and they tell you of many, many couples who come to them seeking relationship solutions. “Don’t look at marriage as a key to the perfect life you’ve always aspired for,” advises Yogi Ashwani of Dhyan Foundation. Sanjeeta feels the same, “People want their partners to be everything they dreamt of. You have to realise that your husband or your wife cannot give you all the happiness you want, in the sense that they cannot be everything for you.” Have expectations but do keep them real—your partner’s human too.

BAGGAGE: WOULDN’T WORK

“If I did not succeed in marriage, how will my daughter succeed?” — Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt on his then-unmarried daughter Pooja Thankfully though, neither her father’s failed marriages nor his optimism about her failure in the marital arena daunted Pooja when she married Manish Makhija. However, neural wave therapist and counsellor Ranjeev Malhotra will tell you that it’s not as easy to get away from the influence of parents. “People are insecure, even afraid of marriage. From what we see of our parents and things that happen with other couples, people come with preconceived notions about marriage. When we see a marriage or relationship failing before us, a context is created. Later when something similar happens in our marriage, we see things in the context of the past and not in the context of current events. People don’t do a reality check and believe that marriages are like this—that they’re meant to be broken.”

Dr Samir Parikh, clinical psychologist, Max Medicare, calls it the “desensitisation and disinhibition” of people. “Earlier there were certain social deterrents when it came to maintaining a marriage. However, with divorces rising, infidelity increasing and because of things you hear and see around you, those very deterrents are being pushed back. People end up thinking, ‘When everyone else is doing it, let me do it too.’” And he’s right. Payal, 34 and mother of two, justifies her affair with a younger colleague. “Look around and show me one happy marriage. It’s been happening for a while. So what if couples are breaking apart or sleeping around to remain married? Everyone is doing it—and as long as my marriage is intact, who really cares?”

Maintaining conjugal bliss is all about giving each other a break and not getting hassled about what’s happening with other marriages. As Ranjeev says, “Our upbringing, the relationship our parents shared, the marriages of our friends—all factors affect our view of marriage.” However, just because your friend’s marriage ended doesn’t mean yours will too. As Poonam says, “The smart ones stick on. The emotional fools wreck their marriages.”

(*Some names changed on request)

BASTARD MEN, CLINGY WOMEN

“The conventional Indian man is taking his shower when the conventional Indian woman —his wife—is having her orgasm.” —Dr Jitendra Nagpal, on how sexual incompatibility creates problems If parents and society leave a mark on the way we perceive marriage, preconceived notions about men, women, relationships also play roles. Ranjeev adds, “Most men and women carry certain tainted opinions about the other sex and most of the time we are busy trying to prove how the marriage will not work out. If the women think all men are bastards, the men think all women are clingy. What happens next is that the man thinks his wife is trying to ‘cage’ him and
starts staying late at work, staying away from home and suddenly develops a need for more friends to avoid her. Understandably, the woman feels ignored, rejected, taken for granted and thinks all men are bastards. She starts being too clingy, too questioning and tries to hold on to the man even tighter thus proving his point that women are clingy. It’s a vicious cycle.” For Sanjeeta, it all boils down to space and mutual respect. “It is always a good idea to keep some amount of formality in a marriage. The moment you stop respecting the other’s personal boundaries, your marriage begins going downhill.”

CASH: YOURS, MINE OR OURS?
Earlier, things were simple in a marriage: hubby went out to earn, wife stayed home. This cozy scene was spoilt once women started earning. Jitendra Nagpal, marriage counsellor and consultant psychiatrist at VIMHANS, explains, “The male has always been head of the family in the patriarchal set-up. Trouble starts when, even with changing equations and women working, we are hypocritical and would like to believe that the man is STILL the only head of the family.” Dr Vasantha R Patri says that the problem arises because a large number of married women do not have control over their own money as it’s still the husband who decides how the money is spent.

LET’S GO FISHING

“Couples are placing less premium on commitment and are constantly confused.” — Dr Sanjeeta Prasad
“When you get into a marriage, you need to give your 100 per cent to it. However, given the socio-cultural changes we are undergoing today, an increasing number of young couples feel there are ‘more fish in the ocean’. Where if one partner does not work out, we move on to another, and another... But are these couples sure where their search for Mr/Ms Right will end? The whole attitude of ‘hua to hua, nahi to nahi’ won’t get us anywhere,” says Sanjeeta. Vasantha feels today women are fishing too. “Looking for love, sex and companionship outside marriage is nothing new to us. Look at the zamindars and maharajas. Today it’s different because the women want it too. Earlier they kept quiet, today women will have their fun too and will stay in a marriage for other benefits, not just the husband’s love or loyalty.”


WHOSE WORK IS IT ANYWAY?

“In the last 25 years, with access to higher education and more such opportunities, women have moved on to a more liberated attitude. However, most men are still frozen in time, 30 years ago. Among working couples, while both bring in a good pay packet, it is still the woman who has to do the housework,” says Vasantha. Ranjeev feels the man-woman relationship, particularly marriage, has also changed into a companionable human relationship of two individuals who share equal power. “It’s companionship that women are asking for, which the male is slowly adjusting to. Women want a partner, not a husband,” he adds. But do the men understand this?

For Jitendra, ‘division of labour’ has yet another connotation in the modern marriage. “The onus of understanding this social change has come to lie only on the woman. The responsibility of sustaining the new dynamics in a relationship is also on her, which adds to her pressures.” He adds, “When a couple comes for counselling, it’s funny to see them. Both parties would wait for the other to start speaking first, or one would ask the other to put his/her grievance first, or one would like to talk separately and not in front of the spouse. As a professional, there are many times when I can see that the couples themselves are confused and wondering—Where did we go wrong?”

Changing equations, both working to make the relationship work, understanding undercurrents or letting each other be—what do we do to rejuvenate our marriages into really fulfilling relationships? Jitendra’s take is that it will happen only when the men catch up with the women, who’ve zoomed far ahead. “All that the women need to do is be patient, particularly when it comes to men. As the Irish song goes, it is good to remember your husband at the end of the day is “just a man’.”

Right. But what about “just a woman”? Isn’t this placing the onus back on women?

11.6.08

Hindustan Times column - From the blog cabin

22 comments
Hello there,
As I wrote in the previous post that all-going-well, I would be sharing some good news with you. Well, starting today (June 12) will be writing a column on blogs for The Hindustan Times. The column is called 'From the blog cabin' and will be published every Thursday on HT's 'Comment' page. For those who get HT at home, do check it out. For those who don't, log-in to their e-paper (click here), register and you can read it there.
If neither option appeals to you, feel free to check out the columns here or click on my toon on the right panel. Er, I am not cross-eyed as it appears on the toon and my nose is a bit shorter. Please feel free to leave your comments on the page or write to me with feedback.
If you are interested in suggesting blogs that YOU read and find interesting, please go right ahead and send me links.

Bra, brazen and bolti-bandh

20 comments
What is fashion? Is it what we see on the ramps? Is it what we wear? If we say that Western clothes show off a woman's body, what about the sari: Does it not show more than it conceals? Do we stop being Indian if we prefer wearing western clothes? And if that's the case, how come no one says anything about men wearing dhotis? "Indian women don't smoke," is something bloody autorickshaw drivers have said to me. My response has always been the same: "What about the village women who smoke hookas and beedi?" So far no one has given me a fitting response to that. Smoking is a bad habit and clothing is a personal choice, why is 'Indianness' threatened by all this?

Mishraji’s Musings: Chapter 7
Brazen and bolti-bandh
(bolti bandh = speechless)

After the last debacle in the Mishra family where 33-year-old Catrina Kohli and Mishraji’s 22-year-old son, Tinkuji eloped and left Mishraji fuming, everyone seemed to lay low, yours truly included. The direct result of the Mishraji-yours truly face off was to stop blogging on ibnlive.com; one wasn’t too sure if he was reading that blog or not.

However, one has received news from Reliable Sources – read Colony Maids Grapevine since they trash everybody unlike your daily newspapers that have hidden political agendas and capital allegiances – that put off by the alleged media influence on his family affairs, Mishraji has sworn to NEVER get on to the Internet. “Too much unfiltered information, without any responsibility,” is what he thinks of the Net. Truth be told, it suits one fine. Since one’s last encounter with the Parivar (family), one had secretly missed the constant drama and had been waiting for something to give way.

As one completed the quick crossword over the second cup of coffee and took in the early morning background soundtrack – various scooters and motorcycles being kick-started, the swoosh of the brooms on the colony roads, dogs barking at waking cars and an assortment of vendors hawking their fares as they wheel-barrowed through the colony lanes – there was a distinctly alien sound emanating from the Mishra household. Even as one tried to put a name to the indistinct but familiar tune, someone turned up the volume and DON’T YOU WISH YOUR GIRLFRIEND WAS HOT LIKE ME blasted through the neighbourhood. Even the dogs stopped barking.

There had been no sound of music from the walls beyond ever since Mishraji had thrown Pinkiji’s tape-recorder out the window and thus it was with much justified curiosity – yours truly is a trained journalist after all – that one peeped into their courtyard to see who had dared let the music play. The vision was… a fashion disaster and reminded one of thunder thighs specialist, south-Indian actress Rambha (her fans lovingly call her ‘Rambo’).

Pinkiji was wearing tights, a noodle-strap top, had blonde streaks in her hair and was cat-walking on her verandah in five-inch heels at 8 am in the morning. She had a remote of some sort in her hand, was sipping from a bright red mug and her nail polish was a screaming red. Before one could duck behind the wall Pinkiji spotted yours truly. As one quickly schooled one’s expressions – rule of a good investigative journalist is to never show apparent shock – and blurted a hasty greeting, Pinkiji shouted over the music, “Hello-ji sex writer, what is the latest in your world of orgasm?”

All attempts at nonchalance went out the window and as one stood with an open mouth wondering what had happened to the salwar-kameez-clad Pinkiji, Mishraji walked in the gate carrying bananas, bread and milk in a packet.

“I was just saying hello,” Pinkiji and yours truly screamed out the same words, in chorus.
“Can you shut that awful song?” demanded Mishraji, his eyes fixated on yours truly. As Pinkiji turned the volume down and there was an eerie silence. Mishraji was still glaring at yours truly when Pinkiji started walking towards her father… CLACKETY CLACK CLACKETY CLACK. As Pinkiji’s heels clattered on the verandah floor, Mishraji turned to look at his daughter; she froze on the spot.

“WHAT are you wearing Pinki?” asked Mishraji with evident disproval.
“Tights Papaji, I…”
“I can see they are TIGHT. WHY are you wearing these hideous clothes and…” Mishraji would have continued if Mrs Mishraji had not stepped out of the house at that moment.

“Arre, you’ve come back, good now I can make some breakfast, would you like some p…” her voice trailed off noticing the scowl on her husband’s face. Mrs Mishraji looked from her husband, to her daughter and unsure of what to say, turned to yours truly and said, “Hello madam. Pinki and I came back from Bom… Mumbai, this morning only. Hope you are keeping well.”

“You don’t have to ask about her well-being. As long as people are suffering, the media will do well. LOOK at your daughter,” said Mishraji, wincing at his daughter’s tights-clad vision and before anyone could respond, “Did YOU buy her these clothes?” he demanded of his wife.

“Diya mausi gave me,” replied Pinki, in a small voice, “She said I would look good and that I should stop hiding behind a bedcover.”
“What nonsense is your aunt feeding you, what bedcover?” asked Mishraji, quickly losing his patience.
“Diya mausi calls a dupatta a bedcover and says salwar-kameez does not flatter an Indian woman’s body. Today’s modern woman does not wear bedcovers. Look at Lara Croft,” responded Pinkiji.

“Clothes are not meant for flattering, they are meant to cover your modesty; and who is Lara Croft?,” asked an irritated Mishraji.
“Lara Croft is a comic book superheroine…” responded Pinkiji.
“Comic book? ‘Comic’ means funny and you want to copy someone who..” Mishraji looked confused.
“Indian clothes aways try to make a woman look fat and feel as if she has to hide something… says Diya mausi and…” replied Pinkiji.
“Your Diya mausi thinks she is a Bollywood actress and…” said Mishraji.
“…and I think she is right. I am not naked,” replied Pinkiji and both Mrs Mishraji and yours truly gasped. She was answering back to her father! .

“You are not naked? Are you answering me back? What do you mean by THAT? Go change your clothes,” Mishraji asked and ordered in the same breath, with a sudden chill to his voice.

“I am not naked. I like these clothes. They make me feel free. Freedom of expression is my constitutional right. Ask Media Madam,” defied Pinkiji and one’s heart sank.

“ASK MEDIA MADAM? FINE. Madam, tell her these clothes are bad, tell her she looks fat in them,” demanded Mishraji. One was stuck and didn’t know what to say or how to get out of the situation when Mishraji turned on his daughter.

“And what do you mean freedom of expression? I have let you do whatever you feel like, have not been like other fathers. Maybe I should have been stricter. Just because I have never laid hands on you, you have…”

“You dare not,” said Pinkiji softly and everything went hush.
“PINKI,” said Mrs Mishraji.
“What?” asked Mishraji.
“Let it be, she doesn’t know what she is saying,” cajoled Mrs Mishraji.
“No, you dare not. You cannot hit me. I am an adult. You dare not touch me,” declared an unrelenting Pinkiji. Diya mausi had obviously had a strange influence on the girl.

“Dare not touch you? What are you saying? What is she saying Meenal?” Mishraji asked his wife and it was the first time one had heard her name. “She says I can’t touch her? This is the child who sat on my lap as a one-year-old. This is the girl, I… I taught her to walk. What does she mean I cannot touch her?” He was looking at his daughter askance.

Even as Pinkiji stared back at her father defiantly, Mrs Mishraji looked torn between her husband and her daughter and Mishraji looked as if someone had punched him in the gut, the cellphone in Mishraji’s pocket started ringing…


To be continued.

10.6.08

Pain in the butt, literally

9 comments

The most sickening scene I have ever seen in a movie -- Saw 2 and Hostel included -- was the scene in Ram Teri Ganga Maili Ho Gayi, Mandakini is breast-feeding her baby and Raza Murad is staring at her breasts. It makes me sick. Sort of that one scene made the entire man-breast-staring equation sickeningly clear. I got thinking about that scene when I was doing some much needed blog-maintenance today, both here and on the import-version on Wordpress. And god, it takes time.



The most irritating thing was to realise that the categories I was deleting on Wordpress kept reappearing and that I really had no sense of HOW to categorise. There was a category that read "First". Like first what, you idiot. However, all wasn't lost as I discovered (figured after everyone else already had that is) some cool tricks on Wordpress. Have you realised that it's REALLY thrilling when you suddenly discover new tricks/ utilities on a device/ tool you have been using for a while? You feel like wow-I-must-be-so-cool, five minutes before realising that everyone but you knew how to do that?
'Realisations' was another category and going through tags and categories I realised some of the things that are foremost on my mind... Parents, family, anger, love, relationships and, er, breasts were my frequent tags. I have written many posts about breasts. Mine and those that belong to others. Man-breasts too. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I wasn't breast fed? (Ma had caesarian and was too much in pain)
By the way, have been thinking a bit and a daily update on the Mishra's might get a little tough and somewhat boring, both for you and me. So perhaps will be putting out their stories once/twice a week. Daily episodes will also require me to spy/ walk-in/show-too-much-interest and knowing Mishraji, I don't think I want to irritate him too much.
Also wanted to ask you something, particularly if you've stuck around for long: Do you think this blog is all about sex? Relationships, yes, but only sex?? Please do write in, feedback on this is important.
That apart, the last two days have been more of tying loose ends, on and off the blog. For personal reasons, have quit my job and currently looking at freelance work that I can start in a month's time. So some discussions on that front... Will definitely keep you guys posted; if all goes well, hopefully, will still continue writing for ibnlive.com. I'll miss that place, a very cool boss and some crazy, creative, hard-working people.

Funny, this month I completed 9 years in the media; was going through some of the old pieces/articles I've written for the print media -- newspaper and magazine cuttings -- and it felt so strange. It's like just yesterday I was standing in the centre of this bustling market at Mukherjee Nagar for a story on student accommodation. I was three months old in Delhi and lord, how I fucked up that story. Sigh. Or my first "crime" story or the first dead body I saw (militant shot down outside Nizamuddin Dargah) or waking up under my office table because I had no home (hmm, stories there, but some other time)
I went to the dentist yesterday and after he was done scaling my teeth I have even greater, new found love for Partner. How he kissed me all this while... Did you know we can produce cement in our mouth?! My bum is hurting. My tail bone sticks out and when I don't watch my posture and sit on my arse, it hurts. Also means I have been sitting on my arse all day. And all this aching-creaking means am getting old. At 29.
But I STILL enjoy watching kiddie flicks. Two days back I saw 'Herbie: Fully Loaded' on HBO and enjoyed it way more than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which we saw this evening. Seriously, George Lucas and Steven Speilberg need to be hit on their heads for trying to insert aliens into everything. And what a waste of someone as talented as Cate Blanchett, was watching her last evening in Elizabeth: The Golden Years, and the lady is a chameleon. Class apart, love her. Ugh, also saw Die Hard 4 and I have new-found respect for Arnold Shwarzenegger; he's not the only one who does do-you-think-the-audience-is-stupid stunts with jet airplaces (remember True Lies, anyone?) Sheesh. Wouldn't have gone for Indiana had the power not gone off.
Have you realised that there is NOTHING to do during power cuts? What did people do when there was no electricity? Have you also noticed that whenever there is a power cut, mysteriously your cellphone will be on the last legs of its battery-power and will die out? And your other phone will have outgoing barred? And you will get calls from numbers you don't have stored and don't recognise and of course you cannot call back? (And by the way, Vodafone should be SUED. You get 15 phone calls from their customer care executive for bill payment but when you try to call the idiots, that IRRITATING voice will take you through all digits on your keypad but NOTHING will get you to an executive. AND they take your number, assure you they'll call back and never do. So what if they got the pug back on their ads, their service still sucks big time. Am soon going to swear off that brand for ever.)
Anyway... a proper post tomorrow, it's 2.20 am and I better hit bed.

9.6.08

Is sex against the Indian culture?

7 comments
“There are no coincidences in life, everything is planned,” wrote James Redfield in The Celestine Prophecy. There has much debate about that logic what with Christian theologists claiming that God has indeed planned everything and even though we might think an event/occurrence is a coincidence, it was supposed to happen. Hinduism too believes in Destiny being preordained and while we might make our choices, our path in life has already been decided. As far as I am concerned, both decided Destiny and coincidence could well be true. Like going underground (hiding on the fourth floor that is) for three months and the night I decide to go out, I crash a guy’s party with common friends – without any intention of meeting any prospective love interest – and the host turns out to be by Partner now. And two years after I wrote it, he is word for word the man I had wished for in a post called, Here’s my Soulmate.

Like from going on a decided path to becoming a doctor, my father gets posted to Delhi, we have a neighbour who’s daughter was studying journalism and lo! I enroll into a journalism course. Or as I wrote earlier, on our first class assignment, a professor declaring “You are the next Shobhaa De” (we will never ask my Dad for his opinions on that, ok?) and then being a panelist with her on a TV show nine years later… What was destiny and what is coincidence?

Like is it coincidence that the next chapter on Mishraji’s Musings was written right after I participated in ‘We the People’ in January 2008… and now that I am going to republish it, last night NDTV re-ran the programme? Destiny, coincidence, convenience?

If you have had experiences that seemed like coincidence and turned out to be of major importance, write in and share… let’s get spooked!
Mishraji’s Musings Chapter 6
Sex is against the Indian culture

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