Monday, August 29, 2016

Wrapped or Unwrapped, Women Will be Rapped Either Way

Image Courtesy - www.independent.co.uk


Till a few days back I was madly applauding the ban on Burkini imposed by France on its beaches in the Riviera. Since I fancy myself as more of a doer than a talker, I quickly started compiling a rather long list of unwearables that our junta insists on turning into beachwear that should be banned. For too long I have been traumatised by the sight of portly men flaunting their hairy selves in striped kachhas, snug boxers and demure women taking a dip in the ocean in their saris that promptly turn into parachutes. In fact, on my last visit to Hardwar which was a few decades back, I saw so many ladies bathing in just their petticoats tied over their ample bosoms that I exclaimed ‘Hey Ram’ and died. Haunted, I never went back for another pilgrimage.

Unfortunately my burkini ban euphoria did not last long. The ban was suspended by France's highest administrative court that’ll rather uphold fundamental freedoms than let the government go by its whims. Tcchh…had it been India, these men in wigs would have been charged with sedition and declared anti-nationals. Don’t they know it’s the state that gets to decide what should offend us? It’s pretty simple - what offends them should offend us and if that offends you, GO TO HELL, YOU SCUMBAGS! Oh, and the state also gets to decide what and where hell is.

After I was done with outraging, I changed sides since I prefer remaining on the right side of political correctness. The world is a stage and of what use are my acting skills if I can’t flip my emotions like an omelette on a pan. So, right now I am busy yayying for the French courts for acting in favour of liberty and equality. Why should only men get to decide that we are better off when covered up! Also, if women feel they should be free to expose without inviting judgement, they should also be free to slip into a garment that the world had no idea about till a ban was imposed on it. So, if certain femmes want to wear bikinis at hill stations, I will support their right even it means freezing to death. Don’t Delhi women dress in tiny summery dresses in biting winters and live to tell the tale? Or prefer death by sweating in black tights under a black dress in searing summers to save themselves from the ogle fest every time they step out?

Needless to say, this landmark judgement has come as a huge relief to a certain section of men who have always believed that an ideal woman should dress in a shroud to live a long uneventful life. Women who dress in flimsy, fashionable clothing deliberately provoke men into harassing them, who sometimes insert rods inside their vaginas and butcher their bodies for fun. So it is only natural that men protect themselves by banning women from their sight. Look what happened at Haji Ali. Women with breasts were deliberately bending over while praying, forcing men into having unholy thoughts and distracting them from their destined path of greatness.

What I don’t get is, if men are so fascinated by breasts, why don’t they try growing a pair of their own!

Had Dipa Karmakar attempted the death defying Produnova vault in a demure salwar-kameez and not that shameful one piece garment, she would have felt more comfortable winning a bronze. Had PV Sindhu smashed her way to the Badminton finals in a sari, and not that tiny skirt, she would have done our rich Indian culture proud. Does Sakshi know that by flaunting those amazing biceps, she has closed doors on lucrative matrimonial offers! Who will marry her now? Worse still, who will risk arguing with her? Tell tell!

So please instead of shooing off devout Muslim women in their Burkinis from beaches, let them feel comfortable covered from head to toe!

The question we need to ask ourselves is, why do women feel so comfortable being covered up even at a beach that demands dressing down to your basics to facilitate ease of movement? Or why certain Muslim women find the hijab liberating and not a tool of oppression!

I think they are seeking emancipation from the prying gaze that’s always judging for showing too little or too much of skin. So what’s a little discomfort if it means freedom to do what you want without inviting censure! Sadly our choice of attire continues to define us as a person, regardless of our achievements and triumphs. If we dress for comfort, we are frumpy. If we dress fashionable, we must be frivolous and vain. If we wear too little, we are begging for attention and if we are wearing too much, we are slaves to patriarchy.

The sad truth is, whether it’s a bikini or a burkini, we continue to be reduced to a mere object who carries the burden of expectations on her shoulders. We don’t dress for ourselves but for others and the reactions it may evoke. We have to worry about what the cabbie might think if he sees us in shorts or that tiny dress. Women at workplaces would rather choose androgynous attires to be taken seriously and avoid unwanted attention.

Our bodies are in a constant tug war between custodians of morality and champions of modernity.

So let’s not be too hasty in celebrating the lifting of burkini ban as a triumph for womankind. Because dressing up or dressing down is never really our choice to make.



Monday, August 8, 2016

OMG, beta, you’ve become darker and uglier!


Growing up as a girl is tough. We have to fend off leery advances from unknown men in public spaces even though we don't fully understand what's going on. We are expected to be paragons of virtue because someone somewhere decided without even consulting us that women are meant to be the pride of the family. On top of that we have to face a battalion of aunties who constantly judge us as if we are part of a beauty pageant. God forbid if you're not fair and lovely, you are constantly reminded of it, as if it was your damn fault! They could be fat, ugly themselves but that doesn’t stop those aunties from passing snarky comments about your appearance.

Interestingly the boys are spared this agony. They could be gangly, pimply, with a hook nose, yet they were handsome princes according to their Moms. We had no such luck.

As you would have guessed by now, I was thin, dark, gawky and not conventionally “good looking” as a child through her teens. I hated the shape of my nose. My brother would often make sketches to illustrate what exactly was wrong with it. I wish I had thinner lips and would often experiment with ‘pursed lips’ look hoping it would make me look pretty. Everyone around me seemed prettier. Unfortunately I was not even spectacularly good in academics to make up for my lack of comely charms.

I had a mirror at home. I knew exactly how I looked and tried not to be too bothered about it. In fact I was a pretty happy child. It seemed it bothered others a lot. I had no dearth of concerned aunts who’d fret about how tanned I had become and how beautiful my Mom was and then glance at me in meaningful silence. Since this was a yearly ritual, I tried my best to turn into carbon. People often ask me where and how I got my sense of humour. Well, it’s time to reveal it all. I developed it at a very young age as a defence tactic. I used it to counter hurt. When on a sunny lazy vacation afternoon an aunt told me that I’d get married only because I had beautiful feet, I told her I’ll ask a burqa to adopt me and make sure the world wouldn’t have to see the rest of me. She of course didn’t get the joke.

As a gawky adolescent still hungry for approval from strangers, I believed every single one of them. Each snarky comment disguised as concern stung like hell. But I made sure I never gave anyone the satisfaction of knowing that they had managed to dent my self-esteem. Sometimes I felt there was a contest going on amongst Moms, each trying convince others that their child was the best thing to have happened to humanity by putting the rest of us down. As usual, we kids were caught in the crossfire. So, when a colleague of my Mom would rue about my lack of height, ma would enrol me for swimming or make me hang from a cold iron rod first thing in the morning, hoping I’d stretch like chewing gum. I spent most of my time at the pool chatting with hot didis lamenting about their voluptuous thighs. I refused to hang like a baboon from that rod after the first day.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Dear Gurgaon, It's time you accepted your fate and drowned in a pothole



Also published here 

Residents of Gurgaon took to social media to vent their anger after the city and its millions cars came to a grinding halt to a gridlock that lasted 20 hours. Triggered by heavy rains followed by flooding, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook were full of horrifying accounts of thirsty, hungry and angry commuters stuck in an ocean of muddy water and bumper to bumper traffic.

Predictably everyone donned their Grrgroan avatar and took to blaming civic bodies and the Khattar led government of happening Haryana. Haryana government took instant action and promptly blamed Kejriwal government for its watery woes. The CM went a step ahead and announced 1812 projects, that he has no intentions of implementing, to make Gurgaon great again. The civic authorities as usual had no clue what they were being blamed for. Especially when a lot of them are supposed to be doing the same job yet no one has a clear idea about the exact nature of their responsibilities. The sweet fellas they are, they promised they will make sure this will never happen again, like they did in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012…..

What’s perplexing is this lashing from the public. It’s not as if the city that fancies itself as millennial hasn’t sunk in murky waters before. It’s not as if countless articles have not been written about a nightmare called Gurgaon and promptly forgotten the next day. It’s not as if promises have not been made and then broken. In fact we love this predictable pattern so much, we make sure we repeat it year after year. Who doesn’t love driving gingerly through swirling waters and miles of honking traffic in the company of irate drivers with murder in their minds after a stressful day at office! It gives an adrenalin rush that no bungee jumping can match.

This time though was slightly different though. The traffic refused to budge, like concrete with more cement than sand. But what is shocking is that Gurgaon residents who are still not sure whether they live in Gurgaon or Gurugram expect accountability from those supposedly in charge. They felt let-down when they saw no help in sight. Silly people, all you had to do was call a cow helpline and say moo and the gau-rakshak squad would have appeared miraculously and given a sound thrashing to everyone responsible for your plight!

Or better still, followed the traffic police advisory offering a simple solution to Millennium city’s woes - ‘Don’t come to Gurgaon.’ If you are unfortunate enough to be in Gurgaon, don’t step out, dammit!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Death by Humidity

Courtesy - Google images

The last few weeks my hair has been behaving like Salman Khan (and his many controversies). It simply refuses to settle down. On a good hair day I look like Sai Baba (the one who dazzled his devotees by fishing out gold chains from his armpits). On a bad hair day I look like I have been freshly electrocuted. In fact if I can perfect my roaring skills, I can be easily mistaken for Lion King.

Gurgaon weather has become a copycat. It has started mimicking Kolkata’s horrible humidity. The type where there’s so much moisture in the air that you start resembling an Amazonian forest in full bloom. Your back hasn’t seen a dry day since May and you alternate between taking a shower in salty water that your body generates and water from the showerhead. Even the tiniest physical activity like a walk to the neighbourhood veggie store makes your body weep and you leave behind not footprints but tiny puddles. Unfortunately, Gurgaon is yet to adopt Kolkata’s lack of work culture where everyone treats work with disdain and prefers engaging in heated debates about Spain’s economic crisis in between sips of chaa and leisurely naps.

The good thing is that this muggy weather has taken care of my vanity. I avoid looking at the mirror at all costs – don’t want to see a hair-framed glistening blob of oil staring back at me. I’m not exactly doing my heart a favour when I scream a loud nahiiiiiiiiin and it races faster than Usain Bolt. Sometimes I have so many oil deposits on my face that I fear the all new fearless America led by Trump will invade me.

It has also turned me deeply religious. I am either praying to the Rain gods to relent and wash us away with its bounties or turn me into a plant so that I can soak in the joys of humidity.

Even god prefers multiple options.

Since I have started resembling a leaky faucet, I have decided to put myself to good use. If I have to move furniture in the house, I simply sit on it and wait patiently for my sweat to start working its magic. Ten minutes later when I get up the chair is firmly stuck to me a like a baby kangaroo to its mom, ready to move to newer plains. If I spot stains on the glass windows of our 16th floor apartment, I hang upside down like a bat and start rubbing my back against it till it becomes squeaky clean. I no longer reach out for the salt shaker when I discover our cook has forgotten to season the dal yet again. I simply stir it with my little finger. I have offered my services to Moms who are looking to scare their kids for not listening to them. I discovered this hidden talent when I semi-glared at a kid who wouldn’t stop fiddling with the control buttons inside the lift. One look at me and he clung to his Mom like fungus, his eyes shut in fear.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hello beautiful, you sent me out of control!

Also published here  

Courtesy - www.mensxp.com
Indians often take flak for being among the least friendly. This disturbs me deeply because it’s far from being true. Granted, most of us would rather stare intently at our phone than make polite talk when in close proximity with strangers. If an unfamiliar person smiles at us, we immediately start speculating about their mental health. It’s more a genetic thing. Somebody forgot to tell us smiling is not taxable. Pushing, jostling and snarling come naturally to us. When we are driving, our middle finger is permanently raised and our cuss vocabulary will make even hardened criminals turn a deep shade of beetroot red. But in no way does it reflect our lack of friendliness. Okay, maybe not all of us are walking embodiments of congeniality. But our men more than make up for it with their friendly overtures towards the opposite sex.


Ask any woman and she will vouch for it. The time she made eye contact with her colleague as she laughed at his joke – and he promptly started making plans for their weekend getaway. Or the slightly tipsy woman at the pub who smiled at the wall and now it won’t stop pestering her for her number. Or the man she met at the party, enjoyed talking to him, even shared her number and now he texts her, ‘Sweeties, I miss you, lets meat!’ 55 times a day. Grrr!

Interestingly the not so single men she encounters are invariably the sweet ole chap victimised by the shrewish wife. By some strange miraculous coincidence ALL of them claim to be married to a woman who does not understand them at all. He’s just a lonely hardware looking for a software upgrade. Tch tch..

So now you know why the Indian woman is a tad grim-faced compared to her male counterpart. As a girl growing up, we felt the pinch of skewed sex ratio in crowded marketplaces, in the first bus we took, at the local tailoring outfit where our 13 year old self felt puzzled by the elderly darzi’s strange touch. Pretty soon we developed a snarl, a well-aimed shove with our elbow, a dead fish look to keep strange men’s unwanted advances under control. We discovered that the male has a strange manner of appreciating female beauty. When we walk on the road, we realise we are more effective than the traffic light at the intersection to make cars and scooters slow down. The helpful Samaritans they are, they offer us a ride not once but again and again. Dear Delhi police, I’m not sure why you’re wasting money on traffic lights, when all you need is a comely femme preferably in shorts, to bring traffic to a grinding halt. Some men become so consumed by passion that their grey cells trigger an avalanche of emotions and send furious signals to important body parts. Their hand reaches out for the motherboard, their genitals and they start scratching violently. Their mouth starts generating copious amounts of saliva which they respectfully direct at our feet. The vocal ones prefer making strange noises that closely resemble the mating call of chimpanzees. Good to know they are in no hurry to forget their ancestors! But this is also a highly evolved species that does not let a woman’s age, weight, skin colour, political leanings, dietary preferences, schooling, family background or the lack of it, hold them back. In fact they treat all of us with equal lust and are in turn treated by all of us with equal disgust.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Unbearable Burden of Being a Class XII Student in India

Image courtesy www.careerindia.com
If you are a parent of a teen who has just appeared for her board exams, you will know exactly what it feels like when the results are about to be declared. It’s like waiting for your own results. Only this time, you are not a carefree teen but a worry-wart adult plagued by ifs and buts and what will the world and its aunt think if your child scores an abysmal 85%. Even Mrs Chatterjee’s useless son scored a 97%! Oh, the triumphant look in her eyes when she distributed sweets in the neighbourhood. Too bad she got the mithai from a third rate halwai.

The thing is, we all seem to think scoring in 90’s is a breeze, till it’s your own teen’s turn to appear for her boards. It’s then you find out how much pressure we put on our kids by making abnormally high scores the new normal. Fact is only those who score high share it on social media. The rest keep mum. Consider this. Out of a total of 1,067,900 candidates registered for this year for class 12 exam, 89,000 students scored more than 90% in aggregate. Which means only 8% managed to breach the 90’s barrier. 

So, where does it leave the remaining 92%? Why don’t we talk about them? Why don’t newspapers follow their life journeys and come out with reassuring stories that scoring ‘low’ was not the end of their life? I wish more and more parents would tell their children that marks secured in exams do not define them. A child who obtains 78% may have a better grasp of a select few subjects and the ones who score a 99% may simply be able to memorise better. Many school teachers have mastered training their students in the art of answering correctly. Plus, the structure of the question papers is such that some students can work around the format and get high scores. Your exam score is certainly not the only indicator of your intelligence or the lack of it.

They will tell you high scores let you pick and choose the subject and college of your choice. Sadly this is not always true. When anyone who does reasonably well in exams opts for a handful of courses in a handful of premier colleges, there’s a mad scramble for their limited seats and not everyone manages to get in.  It’s quite likely that after battling stress and anxiety and studying for 12 hours a day for months, you secure 95% and will still not get into the college of your choice.

It’s not your fault. You did your best. But so did 7,000 odd students who scored above 95%.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Indian man and his love affair with his boxers


Also published here - >

Not so long ago the Indian Aunty discovered an unhindered, unclasped and drawstringless existence in her nightie. In this stifling world of patriarchy that’s constantly trying to suffocate her with its custom-made list of do’s and don’ts and only-meant-for-her morality, she found liberation in this one piece wonder garment. She boldly turned it into a cool daywear that smelt mostly of sweat and spices.

What the Indian woman does today, her male counterpart thinks of tomorrow. Even as she was outgrowing her fascination for this tent-like apparel and switching over to no-nonsense tracks and tee, the Indian man went ahead and found boxers. True, the lungi discovered him much earlier. But a garment that parts willingly at the slightest hint of a gust or lust can have hazardous consequences for the beholder, especially female. Unlike the male that gets excited at the slightest show of limb and imagines the rest of the anatomy, the female is more horrified than filled with desire as she espies upon his lush Amazonian foliage on his limbs and upwards.

The boxer in its cottony soft splendour is its perfect substitute. It comes with cute fly buttons that do a fairly competent job of containing his excitement. Unlike boring trousers, boxers come in bold colours, graffiti, floral and cartoon prints that let him express his naughty side. Its dangerously short length ensures it keeps the beholder’s pulse racing. You never know which part of his appendage will pop out this time.

Understandably, he fell for it hook, line and sinker and like his female counterpart set out to conquer the world in it. While mankind elsewhere continues to wear it as a roomy undergarment, the Bhartiya bhaisahab has turned it into a versatile pair of shorts that can fit into any role he wants. One day it’s a cool gym wear as he huffs and puffs on the treadmill in it. Never mind the incredulous look a certain lady named Purba running on the machine next to him continues to give. Perhaps he mistakes it for adoration. Ever since he was a baby boy his mother made him believe he was the best thing to have happened to womankind. And mothers are always right.

As he prowls around the gym constantly checking out his imaginary biceps and rotund belly, he realises the boxers need to travel more of the world with him. He turns it into resort wear, evening by the pool wear, ‘let me have breakfast in it at a public place’ wear. He knows his good looks and charms can turn even an ordinary chaddi into a fashion statement.

Don’t know why Adidas, Nike and their ilk spend millions on Climacool technology. The Indian man doesn’t need any technology sheknology. He can keep his cool in his boxers. No wonder he’s not scared of global warming. He’s ready to face it in his chaddis.

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