July 26, 2015

Reflections from a Modern Indian Kitchen IV: South Indian meal finally

I been craving for good South Indian meal since a while: It is particularly hard to find good Andhra food in Mumbai. Finally, I decided to take it upon myself to make it happen. And so, today, I made a four course meal consisting of rice with toor dal chutney, ivy gourd fry, tomato dal and raw banana - curd chutney. We were in such a hurry to binge that I forgot to take pictures )

I am quite happy with the raw banana - curd chutney. The recipe I used is easy to follow and hard to go wrong with:

1. Remove the skin of the raw banana (I use knife and not peeler). Split it into four vertically and cut each split piece into 2 - 3 inch pieces (Don't bother with the size for this recipe as it is eventually going to be mashed).

2. Boil it in some water till it is fully cooked and becomes soft (I pressure cook it for ease, adding a pinch of turmeric in the water to remove the raw taste - I do this for most vegetables and dals when I pressure cook).

3. Grind the raw banana pieces with two medium length green chillies*, 3 tablespoons of curd and 1 cup water. The consistency should be slightly more diluted than tooth paste, so adjust curd or water accordingly.
*The original recipe calls for frying the chillies - But I've seen my mom add green chillies to chutneys directly and found that they taste better this way, so I skipped that step. You can choose either of the methods.

5. Chop a medium sized onion to small pieces and keep aside.

6. Heat oil in a pan and add half a spoon of mustard seeds. Once they start spluttering, add a pinch of asofoetida, a pinch of fenugreek seeds, half spoon slit urad dal, half a spoon chana dal, a couple of red chillies (split), curry leaves as per your preference and fry them (Technically, you shouldn't add them all together, but if you stick to adding the ingredients in this specific order, it is fine). Fry them till you see the dals beginning to turn golden brown. Immediately add the chopped onion* along with a pinch of turmeric and fry till it browns in color.
*Onion is my own addition because I love fried onions in pretty much every dish. You can also add chopped ginger instead to make this taste interesting.

5. Add the curd - raw banana mash to this and take the pan off the heat. Add salt and coriander leaves to taste and mix well. Serve with rice.

If you ever try it, tell me how it turned out.

July 22, 2015

Women in the novels of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens

I am a die-hard fan of Jane Austen, and I came across this very interesting paper comparing the characterization of women in Austen's and Dicken's novels: link

If you are a fan of Austen, I strongly recommend reading the full article. This author puts in words very beautifully as to what makes Austen's work so endearing to us.

Sharing some excerpts (again, I recommend read the full paper, it is worth the time): link

// My big battle with Dickens is that I find so many of his women characters neurotic, yet to Dickens that behavior is the ideal. He approves of, even demands, neurotic behavior. His ideal young woman is self-sacrificing in the extreme. She is allowed to have no thought for herself, no desires, no ambitions. // - link

// Austen is ironic, observant, witty, able to depict young women whose manners and mores may be different from ours, yet whom we should enjoy and recognize as fellow human beings if we met them. Dickens is sentimental, overwrought almost to hysteria in dealing with the relations of the sexes. Despite the freedom awarded him as a man, despite his marriage and family, he seems more inhibited (or twisted) than the spinster Jane Austen. // - link

//  It is refreshing to find, in Pride and Prejudice, that Mr. Darcy at first considers Elizabeth Bennet merely “tolerable.” He is attracted and disconcerted by her wit and lack of the deference to which he is used, and moves from admiration for her “fine eyes,” to finding her “one of the handsomest women of his acquaintance.” In Persuasion, by the time Captain Wentworth returns to the scene, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has “lost her bloom,” a very Jane Austenian description. He falls in love with her all over again as she reveals her sterling qualities under stress (and a little because another man admires her). With his love, her bloom returns, to the reader’s satisfaction. // - link

July 16, 2015

Dedicated to the love of my life

Sometimes we fight, sometimes we are moody
But we still laugh and reconcile in the end
As we know we're meant to be together forever
Sometimes we don't like the same things, and we disagree
But we'll always like each other, 
And our principles will never differ

Sometimes we act possessive and feel jealous
But we always set things right, 
Because our trust is hard to break
Sometimes we are cranky and may say hurtful things
But we always know that it is not intended, 
And feel terrible about it later

Sometimes we're busy with other work, 
And we don't get to talk for days
But we always make time,
When the other one is in dire need
Sometimes we go through bad times, 
And things around us fall apart
We'll always find reassurance in each other

Sometimes we change to become different from what we are
But that doesn't bother us, 
Because we understand it is for the better
Sometimes I wish I had a cocoon wrapping us
So that I can bury myself in the warmth of your affection

We'll always keep ourselves happy by keeping each other happy
Because we cannot bear it when the other one is sad
We let each other free because
We know that we'll always come back
And can never belong to anyone else
We're free thus and belong to self
And yet we own each other

We'll always love each other because
It's the real love - the kind of love we know
It's not the incomprehensible fairy-tale love
We see, we understand, we know
And we still love each other...
The kind of love which is not blind
It is the whole and lasting kind
Which is not in parts or distorted in lies

Together we've embarked on this journey
Not in assurance of living happily ever after
Because we know we'll face hurdles in life
But we also know that we'll have each other
And we'll walk through the spines and bristles together

I love you because...
You love me so much!!
You make me feel beautiful
You make me strong
You let me think, you help me judge
You make me do the right thing
You own me by letting me free
And letting me realize than I can belong to no one else

July 14, 2015

Institutional misogyny watch: Part I

Dear Govt. of India,

Your bigotry continues to perturb and baffle me.

On the one hand, the Indian Constitution which you are expected to abide by, declares that every Indian citizen, irrespective of gender (and caste, creed, religion, color etc.) has equal rights (link). It also states justice and equality on political, economic and civic fronts as its objectives. Going by this, I would think that I, along with all women ought to have the same rights as men on all fronts. I would expect your administration to curb gender discrimination and promote equal rights for everyone, through word and action, as this is your stated responsibility.

On the other hand, the laws which are supposed to be based on the Constitutional objectives keep sending mixed signals (link, link, link). You continue to draft and uphold these laws which fall short of these objectives. Also, time and again, you keep contradicting these objectives, by legal, political and administrative means. Different members of your administration have proved on multiple occasions through their words that they have absolutely no idea understanding of their responsibility to uphold my rights (link, link, link, link).

But then, I am confused because some of you keep using words like 'women empowerment' to win elections (link, link). I am not sure if you do this because you think it is a fashion statement to talk about women's issues to gain popularity, or if you really understand what 'empowerment' means and the need to uphold it. It looks as though you are trying desperately to convince women that you are on 'their' side. But often, your words and actions do little to advance your professed cause (link).

I don't understand how you intend to accomplish your professed and designated motto of ensuring gender equality without even making the necessary legal amendments for it. I am failing to comprehend why you would continue to uphold the Muslim Personal Law which is replete with gender bias (link). Your system has failed in delivering justice to Muslim women (link) and administering basic rights granted to them by the Constitution (link). Their voices are unheard and silenced (link), and decisions about laws which are supposed to govern them are made without taking their views into account (link). Under the guise of granting religious freedom, their religion is interpreted taking into account only selective, prejudiced views (link) which are forced onto the rest, ignoring the views (linklink) of the oppressed half.

I don't understand the affected outrage and concern over sexual assaults and female foeticide expressed often by some of you. Some of you seem to be concerned about female foeticide because men don't have enough wives to marry (link). I don't know if you really understand that female foeticide is inhuman and it violates women's right to be born on the basis of gender. Because if you did and if you promoted gender equality the way you ought to have, why would you uphold the patriarchal values which are at the root of our culture's preference towards male child (link, link)? Why would you recognize and encourage patrilineal practices (link) by providing tax benefits for those who uphold them (link)? How exactly is penalizing me for being a woman and legally de-recognizing me from my maternal family, empowering, and how does it translate to equal rights for sons and daughters* (link)?

Coming to sexual assaults, given the statistics of sexual assaults in the country (link) and the horrific treatment with which victims have been meted with by your systems (link, link, link, link, link), we can all safely conclude without much debate that your administration has 'failed' to guarantee me safety at par with men. This is where I am confused again. I think I have the constitutional right to live a life with dignity, and you have the constitutional obligation to ensure this, without encroaching on my right to personal freedom. But you have failed me not only through a passive lack of action in ensuring my safety, but also through active defense of potential assaults against me (linklink). Let alone advancing real support to survivors of sexual assaults, your systems have done more harm than good by imposing constraints on my liberty (link, link) and defending potential crimes against me (link, link). Why are depriving me of my right to live with dignity, by insisting that I am to be treated as a sex slave for my husband, and giving legal sanctions to marital rape (link)?

If you really understand empowerment, you wouldn't insist that my primary identity must always be defined in relation to another male and ask for husband's or father's name on official forms (link). This makes me makes me feel like a second-class citizen. You wouldn't insult motherhood by defining only father as the 'natural' guardian of a child (link). I was happy to notice that my pension form included transgender option which is really something to celebrate about, but what disappointed me was that I had to fill my father or husband's name. This kind of condescending attitude does not make me feel empowered in anyway, I assure you.

You continue to not hear my voice, and pretend to carry on with your charges. I am calling for your attention not as a favor, but because I believe that I deserve to be treated with dignity like all other human beings, and also to remind you of your obligation towards me, and half the population. And to say the least, I am disappointed in your failure to fulfil your responsibilities. I think it is high time that you started walking the talk.

Yours sincerely,
A distressed Indian woman whose rights you have failed to uphold

*The Hindu Law defines the HUF (Hindu Undivided Family) as a family, which consists of males lineally descended from a common ancestor and includes their wives and unmarried daughters (link).

Note: Institutional misogyny refers to the discrimination against women on a systemic scale, stemming from the deep-rooted biases about gender which are internalized in our culture. All my future posts which call attention to this will be tagged with the label 'institutional misogyny'.

P.S: This is my fiftieth post, and I actually had something else in my mind for this one. But the HUF (link) topic came up today (with the ITR deadline coming soon), and I had to write about this. The other draft has to wait.

Related posts:

1. What happens when we allow legal sanctions for marital rape: link
2. Its 'rape culture' not 'tribal culture': On the West Bengal: link
3. So why do I write against gender discrimination: An interaction with a reader: link
4. When a woman talks about her sex life as her choice, patriarchy's control over female sexuality is challenged: link
5. I am a woman in Indian society and I am not yet free...: link

Recommended reads:

1. Gender inequality in the Hindu and Muslim Personal Laws in India: link