May 28, 2015

Birds of paradise

Some things in nature are really beautiful. Just watch this introduction video:

Check this out too - what peculiar tricks do creatures adopt to attract mates:

May 27, 2015

So why do I write against gender discrimination: An interaction with a reader

I've been asked this question by a reader, and there was more in it to discuss, but as requested, I am not putting up the exact content. I'm putting up my response here for a wider audience, with briefly what the reader had to say in italics and my response in red:

// There are other issues to blog about than gender discrimination. Why do you have to blog about this all the time? //

Here's why I blog about against gender discrimination:

1. I blog about women's issues because I feel strongly against gender discrimination, and I do feel strongly against all other forms of oppressive discrimination, against 'lower' castes, against college juniors, against gay people, against lesbians, against colored people, against the physically disabled and so on.

2. Because these issues affect half the population, across world, across all sections of the society.

3. Because I can relate to these issues at a personal level. These issues can, and they do, happen to me, or to anyone I know.

4. Simply because I want to blog about them!!

5. Because blogging about them is more useful than not blogging about them.

6. Because I feel personally responsible for this as a part of our patriarchal society, like we all are at some level, and I want to do my bit by influencing some people positively.

7. I blog about anything which I feel strongly about. I have, and I do, blog about other issues: link, link, link, link, link, link

8. If other people have other important issues to talk about, they are free to write about them.

// Not everyone in this world is same. Some are good and some are bad. Only some men are sexual predators. //

I never said that everyone is the same. In fact, I always maintained that anyone who really believes and stands up for equality of genders is a feminist. I even noted in writing, that not all men are misogynists and not all women are feminists.

No feminist would ever say that all men are potential rapists or sexual predators, because that is the opposite of what we believe in. We believe, unlike most misogynists, that men are rational beings who can understand and recognize the rights of other human beings, and therefore, can be held accountable for their actions. We disagree with the rape apologists' assertion that men are like animals who can lose 'control' and get provoked into violating other people's rights. We think this kind of rape apologia is insulting to men, and the humankind as a whole.

At the same time, we need to ask: Why do only people of one gender happen to assault other people sexually? What makes men rape - IHM: link? How does our society encourage male sexual entitlement? Shouldn't we tell those who believe they have a right to other people's bodies, that sex without consent is a violation of human rights, which they cannot get away with? And may be, men in regressive societies where women are not respected or valued are more prone to 'losing control' - IHM: link?

// Mostly, women themselves are responsible for the discrimination they face. //

Discrimination should be condemned irrespective of who is engaging in it, and that goes for women too. Besides, this isn't about men Vs. women. This is about discrimination Vs. equality, rape culture Vs. a society which respects everyone's rights, patriarchy Vs. feminism.

Patriarchy doesn't place all men at the same level of advantage and all women at the same level of disadvantage. Parents of female children are in the lower order of social hierarchy as compared to parents of male children, so some women are more privileged than the others. So probably, a woman is not a woman's worst enemy. Patriarchy is - IHM: link.

Also wanted to note: I've repeatedly heard people quoting misogynist women in the context of gender discrimination (to serve what purpose, I am not sure, because feminists already acknowledge that some women are misogynistic, and I don't see why this should deter us advocating that all people deserve equal human rights). May be, we need to understand this:

// 1. Men not being sexist shouldn't be contingent upon women not being misogynist. They should stop being misogynist just because it's the right thing to do. 2. Men and women are misogynist for different reasons: men to marginalize women, and women to ingratiate themselves with the men trying to marginalize them. Neither one is justifiable, but one is oppressive and the other is a (bad) strategy to deal with that oppression. 3. One thus sees that if the men who are misogynists weren't, the women who are misogynists wouldn't have any reason to be. Ergo, exhorting women to stop being misogynists so that men will stop gets is precisely backwards. That doesn't mean we shouldn't encourage women not to be self-loathing misogynists. It only means that we probably shouldn't treat them as somehow more responsible for sexism than sexist men. // - Melissa McEwan: link

// Parenting in our society is biased against daughters. It is common to give preferential treatment to sons in most families. This is the root cause of all discrimination. //

Perfectly said. Parents have a critical role to play in shaping the lives of their children. Which is why, if Indian parents started prioritizing their daughters' independence, happiness and self reliance over their daughters Getting Married and Staying Married, we would not have problems related to dowry, female foeticide and many other forms of gender discrimination.

Which means that parents should encourage their daughters to 'be somebody' with a strong sense of identity and self-worth, than instilling inferiority and teaching their daughters to 'please adjust'. They need to stop being over-protective about their girl children and let their daughters learn to be independent. Parents who constrain their daughters' freedom and independence by not 'allowing' them to stay away from home, parents who don't 'let' their daughters travel anywhere on their own, parents who obsess over their daughters' marriage irrespective of their daughters' career achievements and goals, parents who think of nothing else but teaching their daughters to be 'good wives', need to understand this.

But what makes Indian parents not value their girl children? What makes them treat their daughters as 'Paraya Dhan' - IHM: link? Can we blame everything on patriarchy - IHM: link? Why don't Indian parents consider self reliance and independence of their daughters to be as important as their daughters' marriage? Do you think if Indian parents stop seeing their girl children as future daughters in law, things might help? Also, how important is it for a girl to get married and stay married - IHM: link?

May be, only when raising ideal daughters in law is not their goal, would Indian parents would be able to enjoy having and bringing up girl children  - IHM: link.

// Sex selective abortions are reprehensible. //

Agreed. And they are reprehensible because women are human beings who have as much right to be born as anyone else, not because our future sons will not have enough women to marry and serve them.

But why do Indian parents not want to have girl children? This is the root of the problem - IHM: link. And if you don't treat the cause, the problem will never go - IHM: link.

// Mothers too voluntarily participate in aborting their girl children. //

This is something which needs to be condemned.

Also, skewed sex ratio is not caused by sex selective abortions - IHM: link. Parents not wanting to have or raise girl children lead to sex selective abortions. May be it is time to ask: Why do Indian parents not want to have girl children? And what could make even the average, selfish, money-minded Indian family welcome baby girls - IHM: link?

// Parents should be held accountable for what they teach their sons. //

Yes. In general, parents have the responsibility of bringing up their children to be good human beings who respect other people's rights.

In the specific context of sexual assaults, our society, as a whole should be held accountable for the rape culture which we have helped propagate, by victim blaming and encouraging male sexual entitlement. Each one of us needs to do our bit by educating people about gender equality, and condemning rape apologia.

// I blame the mother in particular, because as a woman, she needs to teach her sons to respect women. //

Parenting involves equal responsibilities from all the parents. I don't understand why fathers can be blamed less or excused more for their children's upbringing. You don't need to be a woman to make your children, or anyone understand that women are human beings, whose rights should be respected like anyone else's.

And yes, parents should teach their children to respect others' rights and to not assault others.

// Parents shouldn't defend their sons if they engage in sexual assaults. //

Completely agree. Our entire society too should stop defending rapists through different versions of rape apologia and victim blaming.

// Discrimination is not restricted to gender. It manifests itself in many forms. //

I am against all those forms of oppressive discrimination as well. In fact, that is the basis of feminism: that everyone deserves equal rights.

// Discrimination is something which we need to accept and put up with because it is unavoidable. //

I don't understand this. I know that discrimination exists in many different forms, which is why I am blogging about against it! Moreover, putting up with discrimination has never proved to be a good way to deal with it, as history shows. Imagine a world where slavery is rampant and slaves decided to simply put up with it, we would never have reached where we are today.

Also, asking someone who is discriminated against to put up with discrimination actually amounts to discrimination. That's how discrimination works: by silencing, by subduing, by pretending that it doesn't exist, by making those who are discriminated against accept it as the 'norm'.

Related posts:

1. Will we fail our future generation - link

2. Lechindi... nidra lechindi mahila lokam... - link

Yo, What's Your Beef: Sharing heartranjan's post

I know this post is coming super-late, but I had to vent out my feelings on the subject. And thankfully, heartranjan (link) has already done the needful so I am just going to share his post - It's hilarious and brilliant:

Emphasis mine below:

// In the continuing absurdity that is Indian politics, another chapter was written two weeks ago when the Maharashtra government banned the sale, consumption and possession of beef.

And this has confirmed my staunch belief that religion mixed with politics is a recipe for disaster. As with every stupid government decision, behind every decision, is a hollow, fuck-all logic. The most common reason stated was that it is hurtful to Hindu sentiments, as the cow is a sacred animal for millions of Hindus.

Firstly, Hinduism isn’t a monolithic religion, it does not have one scripture, one set of rules, or norms. And yet, sadly, all the great upholders of religion on social networking sites seem to follow a certain, media-created idea of Hinduism. One that was woven out of mythological serials on Sunday mornings and Amar Chitra Katha comics.
For if any of these idiots actually read any scriptures, one finds a huge number of references to non-vegetarian food. That it was consumed, written about, and celebrated in a million ways. Yet, for all our pride in our ancient roots, and the wonderful diversity that Hinduism enjoys, we choose to abide by (and shove down upon others’ throats), a particular streak of carefully-chosen Brahminical Hinduism.
They told us that this is what the religion is – encapsulated thousands and thousands of years of a vibrant, unique way of life into a set of Dos and Donts – and like blind sheep, we choose to abide by it.
Then, there was the second logic thrown around.
Why can’t we ban beef, when other nations have banned pork?
Which is such an idiotic logic, that you feel like stuffing a seekh up their ass.
Just because other regressive nations dictate how their citizens should lead their personal lives, why should India do it too? Why are comparisons always made with UAE and Dubai and other regressive states? Why can’t we aspire for higher?
Which is an interesting thought. If you analyse any pro-Hindu dumbwit, you see a pattern. These guys hate Islamic states with all their heart. And yet, they will stand by and applaud as India gets reduced to exactly that – a pseudo-Islamic state that believes it has the right to decide what is right for the people.
And all the supporters of the ban are the same set of people – Hindu, upper caste/class, vegetarians, and BJP supporters. Idiots who drank from the well and now want to spit the wisdom down your throats.
But trying arguing with a BJP fanboy!
For some reason, BJP fans are the most aggressive, intolerant sort on social media networks. The Communist will meander about the discussion and then put up a link to a Rumi poem. The secularist will keep disagreeing, avoiding anything outlandish, for fear of coming across as intolerant. The Congress supporter is still hiding his face in shame. But the BJP supporter!
Arguing with a BJP supporter is like playing Tug of War with an ox. After a point, you look at yourself, wonder what the what the fuck you were thinking, and let go of the rope.
And so obsessed are BJP fanboys of their leader, that they will go on about him on social media when he does something right (I’m not a fanatic, and he IS doing some things right, won’t deny him that).
But when his government does something stupid, the BJP langots simply vanish into thin air. Question them about it, and they’ll share a picture of their dog pooping on a plate of Upma.
And vegetarian animal rights activists will add to the debate with their asinine logic of global warming and animal rights violations. Because it is fine if you slaughter buffaloes, but not cows. Go Mata, go!
What we forget is that beef is cheap, nutritious, tasty food for billions of people. Yes, it is sacred for some Hindus, but so are other animals. In some communities, even onion and garlic are considered unholy because they grow underground (yet another fuck-all logic!). Do we go around banning it?
Why do we have to stoop as low as the extremists?
In many ways, Hinduism is among the most tolerant religions in the world. Why can’t we celebrate that, revel in its diversity, and let people choose what is right for them? Why do we have to stoop to the levels of …ahem…You Know Who?
India doesn’t need to do shit like that, man. Grow up!
And the ruling party imposing rules pertaining to personal life is a dangerous trend. In many…*cough cough*…religious countries, we have seen how disastrous it is for the social fabric of the nation.
And where does this cycle of banning what we don’t approve of, end? //
Related posts:

1. In response to 'Why the Wendy Doniger episode is not a free speech issue' - link

May 26, 2015

Reflections on what I want to write about

In one of my recent posts (link), I talked about wanting to write a book and made a promise to do a separate post on the ideas going on in my head. So here I am as promised, with my new post, rattling about all sorts of stuff. Most of my thoughts come from the gap in female characterization, both in literature and in movies, and my frustration with not being able to find female characters which project depth and confidence.

The first idea stems directly from my frustration with our movies and portrayal of female leads, whose role is usually limited to playing the hero's love interest and the damsel in distress. Few beautiful movies, like Queen (link), are of course an exception. I know there are quite a few strong, female centred movies like Zubeida, Mother India, and so on. But my point here is that a movie or a book with strong female characters doesn't have to be about a serious, err, for lack of a better word, 'issue'. We can have normal easy-breezy stories revolving around women, with strong characters, giving a different dimension and flavour to the same stories, and more importantly, adding a new, non-stereotypical, realistic/humanistic layer to female characters. You'll see what I'm getting at: Can you think of a reason why we don't see a movie like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, or a Dil Chahta Hai, or even Kai Po Che with three central female characters? Or for that matter, you can easily think of a story like Five Point Someone with three female characters. I don't see any reason at all why such stories shouldn't be told with female leads - They do have fun, maintain strong bonds of friendship, go on trips, have dreams and do other stuff, you know: women. The moment one starts looking for a multi-starrer with central female leads, we arrive at Lajja which deals with serious women's issues, or worse, with Mean Girls with its stereotypical depiction of women as shallow. I think Friends and Sex and the city were the few shows which to most part, were able to portray female bonding decently. Coming to the point, inspired from my days at Bangalore, I thought about writing a book on three young, working women living in the same flat. Of course, this would be bordering on blatant plagiarism if I didn't get an approval from my friends on this :) As I have blogged earlier too (link), I think we need to see more female roles in our literature, who are independent and are something more than the damsel in distress or the Chikni Chameli. We need more healthy female role models in popular media, like Piku (link) for our girl children to idolize, and even though there are books like Almost Single, we don't have enough of them.

My second idea is strangely, inspired from a dream. I went on a trip to Alibagh a couple of months back and I had a dream about a once upon a time kingdom, an evil king, some Goddess and one brave girl who wants to break her kingdom from suffering. When I woke up, I started narrating the dream to my husband for fun, and it helped me remember the details later (I instinctively wanted to remember). And then I toyed around with the idea of doing some short story on my dream, just for the heck of exploring the fantasy genre. Before that, I never thought I should could even attempt fantasy genre, because it is so exceptionally difficult to come up with good work which sounds original in that genre. But this story-writing was just for my own fun, so I thought about the story line, and then I thought some more. Finally, it evolved into this complete, complex and I hope, original material for a full length epic-novel-sort-of-thing, which a short story will not do justice to. Whatever I have in my mind about this book now, is mostly developed during the ferry trip back from Alibagh. I cannot give away the plot details here, but the theme is going to be decidedly feminist and I hope to give a good alternative to existing mythology, with my anti-thesis to Paradise Lost and Ramayana in terms of the portrayal of the heroines. The tone will be dark, deep and poignant (not sure about the extent of darkness I can really penetrate), but not gory. The novel will start off in a dystopian setting intended to convey something meaningful, like a Handmaid's Tale, but it will have a 'happy ending', like anyone who knows me can guess... Ssshhh!!

I had another random, funny thought which came along when I was thinking about the earlier work, in the same ferry. May be my mind wanted some escape from thinking too much about serious subjects, so in came into my head this cute five year old kid, doing really cute, funny but clever stuff. I am tentatively naming this work as 'Detective Daisy'. Don't ask why! That was the first name I could automatically think of in the ferry and I stuck with it. I am not clear on what exactly I should do with this little kid. In fact, I have still not zeroed in on her age, but I am thinking five is a good intelligible age to start with for doing really cute stuff. I considered starting off with short strips like Ramu and Shamu (if you don't know, look up Tinkle), but I am also considering doing full length stories like Home Alone, so that's not figured out yet. Children's literature and humor, though underrated, are really tough areas because one has to relate with how children are like, and when you declare that your work is humorous, there is a definitive way to measure how good it is. Whatever I do, thinking about this kid always brings a smile on my face so I am going to chill and let my imagination take over.


And then there are a few more ideas which are not fully developed yet, and I am not sure if I feel strongly about pursuing them, but I am listing them here anyway, in case any of them translates into something more concrete:

I thought of doing a simple, biographical (not auto-biographical) column on this blog called B.I.T.C.H (Babe In Total Control of Herself) Chronicles. In keeping with my repeatedly declared agenda to fill the gap in our literature's portrayal of women, it is meant to be about a single woman, with simple, interesting episodes of her day-to-day life, expectedly going beyond the stereotypical understanding.

There are times when I feel very philosophical about life and about everything in general. I thought of doing a book which shows the evolution of the lead character with time, reflecting the lessons learnt from life. I wanted it to combine self reflection and passion, to bring out the underlying story. I don't have it all clear and sorted, but let me see - If it gets more interesting, my mind will take it forward.

Romance is a genre which I may want to consider exploring sometime, and I am in two minds on this one. My normal self would like to do something really sweet (just about falling short of mushy), but my unusual self wants to explore the dark side of love and relationships. It could still be romantic and yet dark, portraying the real complexities involved in a relationship.

Like I said, sometimes I get into this very philosophical mode, and I might do my own collection of short pieces, about what it is like to be a tree, or a dog, or to live in the sky, or what the world will be like hundreds of years from now and things like that. I have no idea what I am talking about. May be something like Chicken Soup for the Soul. This is the first time I am considering doing a work which is non-fiction.

One last idea: I feel that sex has never been looked at seriously enough from the point of view of female pleasure. In fact, female pleasure was not even considered a few decades before, and the feminist in me takes objection to this. Inspired by the Sex and the City (which I have been watching diligently of late), I suddenly had this thought: About doing a series of anonymous interviews with many women who can share their experiences on the subject uninhibitedly, and publish the collection with the main findings. Judge for all you want, but I think it's a good idea, though I am not sure if I have the guts to do it.


These are all for now. The list looks pretty random, and may want to make you laugh. Honestly, I am not really sure if I am ever going to find time to finish or even start on any of these works, but some of them are definitely worth giving a try.

As always, any opinions are most welcome :)

Related posts:

1) These are the stories which we should tell our children!! - link

2) A long wishlist - link

May 18, 2015

Turning 26 isn't so bad after all!!

Especially when your team mates surprise you with this on your desk - Looks like all my cribs about turning 26 were heard :) :)

From the most special man in my life

I am very touched. I do wish to be the pride you feel, always. Thanks for sharing this dad: link

No matter where I am, I will always come back to where I belong: to you
So between you and me, partings and good byes don't matter
I always carry a part of you with me, so I am never on my own
When everything seems falling apart, you're the one I can always count on
Even when I make mistakes, even when I don't listen to you
I know that I can always come back to you when I need help
I do aspire to be the pride you feel, now and always
And whatever I have become, is only a shadow of what you are
It took me so long to finally understand you, but now that I do, 
I promise to cherish this special bond, and never stop loving you

- Dedicated to my mom and dad

Thanks dad

Reflections from a Modern Indian Kitchen III: When you binge eat on a Sunday

First time we made pani puri at our house:
Pani Puri @ Mumbai Home
Vegetable cravings - When health meets taste:
Stir fried vegetables with lemon-yogurt dip and bread
Happy eating!!

Related posts:

1. Reflections from a Modern Indian Kitchen I: A few easy-to-make must-haves - link

2. Reflections from a Modern Indian Kitchen II: When we treat ourselves to delicacies over the weekend - link

May 09, 2015

Poem: What have you got? Pickles, pickles and more pickles

Knock - knock! What have you got?

Pickles, pickles and more pickles.

How many pickles do you have in there?

One, two, three, four.... eight of them

First is the spicy lemon, the zestiest of them all

And second is tangy tamarind, the best one of the lot

The next one is wood apple, delectable on the tongue

Followed by special kenaf, God's own gift to us

And then there is mango with mustard, ever classic it is

Coming up is my favorite: the tantalizing tomato

Seventh is the cool cucumber, it is as good as the mango one

And the last one is red chilli, the spiciest of them all

Do you have any left if I may ask?

Indeed you may, but I am sorry I ate them all

Which ones did you like the most?

I loved all of them, and I will get more of them

Knock - knock! What have you got?

Pickles, pickles and more pickles.

 - For the Telugu people's love of pickles :)

// Pickles are God's gift to the people of Andhra and one of our best creations in the culinary world. //

Yours sincerely,
An Andhraite who is an ardent fan of pickles

May 06, 2015

Six things Mumbai does to non-Mumbaikaars

As a non-Mumbaikaar who happens to be a part-Hyderabadi and a part-Bangalorean, I found it a bit difficult to adjust to Mumbai initially. To speak the truth, I lived like a pampered princess in Bangalore :) Also, most of my social circle was in Bangalore so when I quit my old job and shifted to Mumbai, I couldn't help complaining a lot in the first few months. And then, 'Mumbai' happened... After you get through the cribbing, complaining and irritable phase, this is what Mumbai does to you:

1. You stop considering distance and time of the day as hindrances for travelling within the city. Seriously, name any time of the day or night: 11.00 / 12.00 / 3.00 / 5.00, you have travel options and places where you can hang out. I used to believe that the night life in Mumbai is overrated till I realized that I am so used to it now that I take it for granted! About the distance, yeah, Mumbai has a way of making you get off your lazy ass. You're still new to Mumbai and are overwhelmed by the distance factor? Don't worry, give it a year and you'll learn :)

2. You realize that there are a LOT of people in this world other than you :) I don't think I will hear any contradictions from anyone who has been to Mumbai on this one. If you even have the slightest hesitation, you should take the Mumbai metro with me next time... I actually think the crowds in Mumbai are addictive. Even though I crib about them all the time, I think I'll feel empty if I suddenly settle in a 'quiet' and 'secluded' place now.

3. At one point, you understand that money will never be enough. No matter how 'rich' you are, there will always be lots of people who are richer than you. Unless of course, you're someone like Ambani or Amitabh Bachchan. This is one thing which I like about Mumbai: I don't notice much of class privilege being exhibited. Probably due to the pearl of wisdom which I just quoted here: However rich you are, you are not rich enough. Money can't buy everything, and space in Mumbai is one of the things which even a hell lot of money can't buy!!

4. You learn how beauty is best meant to be appreciated: From a distance and when it is veiled :) Mumbai has one of the most beautiful landing sights from a plane among all the Indian cities, because of the sea during the day and the lights during night. But we know the un-prettiness that Mumbai actually is if you get closer. Really, Mumbai is at it's beautiful best at night...when it is fully lit up...when you can't see the dust and the slums. All the best roads in Mumbai are best because they are elevated, so that you can't look down and see the chaos around. Marine drive is pretty when you're driving on the road; the moment you get closer, you see all the crap people have thrown around :( So you learn to stop scrutinizing beauty closely, so that you appreciate the finer nuances of life...

5. You are simply not satisfied by any street markets you visit outside Mumbai because you know you get better and cheaper stuff here. Mumbai street markets are the best!! The realization dawned on me when I shopped in Goan markets and then shopped in Hill Road again :)

6. You notice that autos (and taxis) have meters which are actually used to bill customers :D Speaking as someone who stayed in Bangalore for 3 + years, this one is definitely a pleasant surprise.

I know all this sounds very rosy. I know what you are thinking: the dust, the pollution, the claustrophobia, the humidity, the sweat, the rains and it goes on and on and on. Yeah, yeah I get it. I am with you. But look at the brighter side. Here are some things which we non-Mumbaikaars who crib about Mumbai take for granted:

Travel options: Seriously, if you keep comfort factor aside, Mumbai has a whole lot of options to travel at any time. Mumbai is one city where you don't have to own a car to go out at 2.00 a.m. in the night without much hesitation.

Water: Again, only someone who stayed in Hyderabad and Bangalore for quite a few years will appreciate the value of access to soft water for drinking and domestic use :)

No power cut :) :) Should I say more? ***Happy dance***

Wish you a very pleasant stay in Mumbai!!