Sunday, February 26, 2012

Of Chhota Pleasures and badaa joys...

Ask anyone and they will concur, that their most joyful childhood moments revolved around the summer break. Two months of unbridled freedom from the tyranny of homework and exams. Expectedly schools did their utmost to play the party pooper and gave thick booklets that required us to forage for twigs and compose poetry around them. Build an igloo out of cardboard and cotton wool. Or better still, practise two hours of Maths daily. The smart alecs we were, we conveniently consigned such trivialities into the deepest, darkest corner of our minds and pretended they did not exist.

Now when I see parents trying to make most of summer break by enrolling their progeny for myriad activities, in a bid to transform them into a deadly combo of Einstein and Beckham - I feel sorry for the kids. Sorry that they are missing out on the simple joys of doing absolutely nothing. Sorry that their parents are happier to keep them out of their hair.

For me summer vacations were always special. That’s when I got my working Mom all to myself. She would read out stories to me and my brother, cook our favourite dishes and try to teach us Bangla. Lessons we would promptly forget the moment we returned to school.

As a parent, I have stopped measuring up myself to my Mom knowing that I will fail miserably.

My parents were and still are avid travellers. Come summer and they would get into a huddle and plan our next trip. Should it be Kodaikanal, can we squeeze in Pondicherry? Nah...lets stick to Kullu Manali this year. Baba would triumphantly arrive holding our tickets in hand, Ma would frantically start packing and I would dance around her in gay abandon.

I was about to touch thirteen when we all went to Ranikhet with our close friends. Sunil Kaku, Kakima and their kids, who were nearly our age.

Dawn had just broken when our bus driver announced that we had reached Ranikhet. As I rubbed my sleepy eyes, all I could see was tall deodar trees peeping from behind the fog that had enveloped this tiny hamlet in its embrace. It seemed I had arrived at a magical land atop the Faraway Tree.

Courtesy :Clipart.com

Our forest rest-house, located on a secluded spot on a hill, was going to be our abode for the next seven days. Surrounded on all sides by gently sweeping slopes and lush forests, our charming bungalow had its own pretty garden; crammed with flowers in full bloom, flower-shaped cacti and terraced slopes with flora in all imaginable colours.

Monday, February 20, 2012

An A-musing story


Twistynoodle.com



Today is A-Musings’s happy budday. Brace yourself for the terrible twos!


It’s tough to write the story behind your blog. How do I make it funny and interesting? What do I add that all of you do not know already? So I thought I’ll start with a candid confession. Till two years back, I had no idea what a blog was. Yes, that’s how ignorant I was. But then I left my job and started writing on a whim. A simple note on Facebook expressed my elation at being free from a clockwork precise life; a rambling that made its way to a news-forum, Drishtikone. The reaction I got for the write-up was overwhelming. I guess, as a woman trapped in a prison of her own making, I managed to strike a chord with many.

Change, is the most difficult thing to accept. Oh, how we refuse to look into its face. But once we accept it, there’s no looking back. Life is too short for us to regret what we could have done, where we could have been.

My blog was born out of desperation. When a Bangalore based forum put the spotlight on me, I realized I had no space of my own. I started with a bang and created 11 blogs for my 11 posts. It’s only when a befuddled reader pointed it out, did I discover my faux-pas and sheepishly made a new one and titled it Musings. That was before I realized that 57302 blogs exist with the same name. A few months later when the husband suggested A-Musing, I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

I honestly didn’t expect anyone to read my outpourings. When I got my first comment, I almost melted with gratitude. My first ever fan (Harsh) and his group of friends will always be special to me. It seemed so surreal, a group of college kids in faraway Lucknow, sitting in their canteen, avidly discussing my write-ups. My Dad is from Lucknow and I have many happy memories attached to the city – of lazy summer afternoons, a bunch of kids furiously planning pranks, the fights we had, the joy of stealing Dusseris from the store-room, the tears that wouldn’t stop flowing every time I had to head back to Delhi. Lucknow became even more special to me.

When I joined Indiblogger, I finally saw what blogs can become. I saw bloggers with hundreds of followers and dozens of comments. I was star-struck. I wrote my first gushy, fan letter to Sharmila (she doesn’t blog anymore) and was heartbroken when she stopped corresponding after a couple of mails. I met so many wonderful people that I am willing to forget the few unpleasant episodes. I lost a friend, the same one who introduced me to blogging. He was a staunch Baba Ramdev supporter and didn’t take too kindly to my pranayam- doesn’t- mix-with- politics barb. We had a nasty showdown and haven’t spoken since.

To me, a blog is not just a platform for publishing your posts. We build a community of like-minded people who become like our family over a period of time. You share amusing anecdotes, fume at the issues they raise, cry with them, applaud their talent and reprimand them when they slip.

I discovered myself through my blog and my friends & family discovered me through my musings.
 
Yes, A-Musing gave me recognition, fulfilment and some heartbreak as well. I take criticism more seriously than praise and it broke my heart when my attempt at fiction did not go down well with quite a few of my readers.

I was approached by a well-known publishing house to write a book. I was ecstatic! This is what I had been waiting for, to be discovered! I got into a tizzy, wrote four chapters and realized it’s not turning out the way I wanted it to. Defeat is not an easy thing to accept and it made me feel miserable. From ecstasy to agony, in three months flat! But now I have made up my mind. I will write a book, if I am ready for it and not because I am expected to.

Two years down the line, writing has become a part of me. It is almost like an obsessive need now. The days I don’t get to scribble my stray thoughts in my diary, I feel lost. As if an important part of me is missing. I still get butterflies in my stomach when I hit the publish button – because I dread letting you down. I still labour over my posts to get the economy of expression, to get the punch lines right. What if I end up sounding funny for the wrong reasons! And I still make the husband read my posts and give his suggestions before I publish – even when he is dog-tired at the end of the day and is about to sink into deep slumber!

I have always avoided mentioning names in my few interviews as a blogger. People who have become dear friends, friends whose opinions I value and respect. What if I forget someone really important? The last thing I want is to hurt anyone’s sentiments.

Zephyr, Snow Leopard, Maitreyee, Samadrita, Alka, Bhavana, Priyanka, Kartikay, Chintan, Suruchi, you mean the world to me. And to those of you who write such beautiful mails to me appreciating my work, I feel honoured. If some of you are upset that I did not review your blog or a post a comment, I apologize. Time is a luxury for me.

There, I managed to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech. And I have yet to thank my dog, Jeejuz, the husband, my daughter (not necessarily in that order).

Let me end with a warning. You can love me, you can hate me – but you can’t stop reading A-Musing! If you do, I will come and haunt your dreams (*insert evil laugh*). Scared you into submission, didn’t I?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Musings Of An Idle Mind

A-musing is about to turn a year older. So I thought, why not start the "terrible twos" with my very first post. This is where I started from........

Winners never quit and quitters never win!!! Fifteen days into my semi retirement on a leisurely Thursday morning, this garish larger than life poster jolted me out of my reverie.

Am I a quitter? I pondered. For those who came in late, I recently semi quit my job. Too scared to actually quit I have taken a six month hiatus. Like a dress rehearsal before the real thing?

After twelve years of a clockwork precise life I finally started asking myself a few relevant and irrelevant questions. Introspecting is never an elevating experience. You end up feeling “more lost” “more confused” Was I working for the moolah? Creative satisfaction? The sheen of earning wears off too soon and my creative satisfaction was far in between. Blessed are those who love their jobs. Even I went through this phase. Of meeting and overcoming challenges, of battles won and lost. There was a point in life I actually used to think teaching is the best job in the world. But after a decade of doing almost the same thing everyday, monotony began to set in. Gone was the excitement, anticipation of a new day.

For a few years I actually worked for the sake of my sarees. Ok, confession time! I love buying sarees and have quite a collection. Couldn’t bear the thought of them collecting dust in some forlorn cupboard. And in this day and age who wears sarees for just a casual outing? If you do, people stare at you as if you just landed from Mars.

I worked for the sake of my friends, for the fear of losing company, for the sake of fitness (running up and down the stairs, running after students, running away from work, it all helped), for the joy of holidays (only after darkness do you appreciate light).

Basically for all the wrong reasons.

Meanwhile I raved, ranted (that’s when a husband comes handy), tossed , cribbed and finally mustered enough courage and put in papers. The weeks that followed were a pain! In the restroom, walking down the corridors, standing under the sun doing canteen duty (yes there exists such a duty), teaching, not teaching I was counseled. Basically everyone thought I was out of my mind. Very few could relate to “I want to live my life my way” logic.

The last three months of my notice period passed in a daze. And when you know you won’t be doing this stuff for quite a while or maybe never, you do it with a rare fervor. I made cumulative registers in triplicate, wrote interesting accounts of my teaching plans complete with illustrations, made report cards, gave long lectures to students who had managed the unimaginable feat of securing 18%, taught or at least tried to teach students who were busy day dreaming of “Splitsvilla”. I was a woman on a mission. Eyes shining bright, smile playing my lips I made even more lists, checked even more papers, filled registers in red, blue and black ink. Now that I look back it almost seems surreal.

And….one not so fine, balmy morning I woke up to the last day in school. Switched off the alarm for good. In school of course there were some emotional farewells. Got to hear quite a few “lucky you”, “God is this your last day??? No wonder you look so happy”. With a light heart and slight trepidation I bid adieu to my life of 12 years.

Nearly three weeks later I am introspecting again. Hard to get rid of this pesky habit of mine.

Am I enjoying spending time with myself? Do I miss the humdrum? Breathless mornings, tired afternoons? At least not for now..but I will later ..maybe not.. who knows !

All I know is “time is not my enemy anymore but a friend”. The day stretches lazily before me and I can finally watch the Sex and the City DVDs which have been lying unopened in the shelf for the last 5 years. I can calmly handle a household calamity, listen to Trisha chatter nonstop. Greet the husband with a smiling face and not ply him with my sob stories of the day. Not sounding like the liberated woman of the 21st century, am I?

I do not know how long my honeymoon period will last. I recently met a woman who started working after 22 years of being a homemaker. She was glowing and loving every minute of this new experience. As they say, a change is always for the better.

So am I a quitter?? Yes, I quit only to embrace a life less lived, a path less trodden.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Holier than cow hypocrisy


Indiavision.com

This was breaking news with a difference. Caught live on camera were Karnataka’s honourable ministers indulging in a not so honourable deed. While the rest of the Vidhana Soudha was busy debating mundane issues such as drought, three ministers were busy tackling erection issues. So engrossed were these gentlemen in watching naked women on their tiny mobile screen that they were blissfully unaware of the television cameras zooming on them from behind.

Not porn silly! It was a performance review and they were simply trying to rise to the occasion!

Reminds me of the backbencher attitude typically seen in school kids. While the teacher is breaking into a sweat trying to explain how x must equal y, the boys at the back are busy drawing the class hottie’s bra strap in their note book.

But these are adults and not hormonal adolescents. And not just any male adults, but elected representatives, who were given a portfolio so that they could serve the very electorate that voted for them. Whether watching porn is right or wrong is another matter all together. If google search statistics are anything to go by, it’s a national pastime. This is what happens when people grow up watching filmy flowers kiss and parents who insist that no bodily function contributed to their birth. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat; it gave birth to an industry called porn.

The issue here is not some ministers indulging in juvenile behaviour. It is about political hypocrisy of the perennially pious. I understand that private lives of politicians is entirely their business but not if it contradicts their moral hectoring in public. It is the same CC Patil who just a month back was acting as the high priest of the moral brigade, loftily giving advice to women to cover up to escape sexual assault on streets. What a convenient way of absolving men of any responsibility for their libidinous nature! Mind you, this is a minister who handles the women and child welfare portfolio. Somebody tell him please, that there is no connection, never has been and never will be, between rape and what a woman wears. Sir, don’t try to fault our “skimpy” clothes when the trouble lies with the filth you carry in your mind. And how well you illustrated it - drooling over nude images and violating the sanctity of the assembly. S howing utter contempt for decorum and people who brought you to power.

What made it worse was the lack of remorse and the clumsy lies these men cooked up to defend themselves. As if watching rape footage makes them less sleazy! Thick skinned liars and they have the gall to issue diktats on moral behaviour. If Ram Sene can display uncharacteristic zeal in thrashing youngsters indulging in PDA, why can’t they beat up these cads for disrespecting the legislative assembly?

Hum karein to salaa character dheela hai?

What’s ironic is that these gents belong to a party that loves flaunting it’s holier than cow attitude. BJP – that has spent a lifetime as a party-in-waiting, boasts of a geriatric high command that specializes in high octane protests and walk outs and doesn’t waste an opportunity to demand resignations on moral high grounds.

So immersed is the party in its single minded pursuit for power that it is blissfully ignorant of the asses it’s breeding in its own party. And when they get exposed, look how they jump to their defence. Karnataka CM Gowda tried to dismiss it as yet another conspiracy by the Opposition and felt his three idiots had no reason to feel sorry!” According BJP leader Parrikar “They (the three Karnataka ministers) were only watching and not doing it in action". God forbid! If we are subjected to the torture of watching a live telecast, the entire nation will be walking around with a haunted look in their eyes.

BJP is not exactly known for being amenable to reason. They are illiberal and intolerant, prone to violence; and they would not mind manufacturing communal disharmony, which includes riots, when it suits them. All this in the name of protecting Indian culture and heritage. But it comes to dealing with its rogue ministers like Yeddyurappa or Maderna, it lacks courage and conviction. Politics wins, principles can go for a toss.

Ironically such hypocrisy is across the political spectrum and not just the prerogative of the Congress or BJP. Time and again we vent frustration at the intolerance our leaders breed to freedom of expression. Sadly these antiquated views stem from the desire to endear themselves to certain sections of the society rather than a personal conviction. Go ahead and play to the gallery but not at our expense! As citizens of a free country, shouldn’t we be free to decide what we want to read and watch! Why can’t we express what we feel, without the fear of censorship? Why this constant moral policing by double faced politicians who condemn a rave party in public and derive perverse pleasure in watching its clips in private?

Isn’t it time we asked you to just shut up and prove your usefulness to the country?





Sunday, February 5, 2012

No Country for Young Girls


mrpshow.deviantart.com 
I am a resident of the rape capital of a country that has been recently certified by a UN report as the deadliest place in the world for the girl child. Am I surprised? No, but I’m definitely ashamed to be part of a nation that kills, abandons, rapes and sells its girls. A Devi worshipping society that murders its female foetuses before they are born. The birth of a daughter is not celebrated but bemoaned. Small towns boast of clinics that offer “ultrasound” services. Badhai ho says the lab technician while he pats the father’s back and informs it’s a boy.

Thanks to sex determination, fewer girls are born, if they are born they do not survive, if they survive, a far from rosy future awaits them. The sex ratio is heading south and things have come to such a stage that in certain parts of the country, prospective grooms are forced to buy a bride. And do you know what happens when a bride is bought? She is treated no better than a slave.

In Punjab and Haryana, there are only 830 girls per thousand boys. Other states are faring no better. No wonder sex crimes are on the rise. Logic will dictate that since girls are fewer, they will be valued. On the contrary, it encourages abuse. Girls often get abducted, drugged, beaten and forced into sex trade.

I know what you are thinking. Why is she painting such a grim picture? Such things don’t happen to our girls! We pamper our daughters, we treat our mothers with respect. It’s a malady restricted to the lower echelons of the society. Yet, educated women get harassed for dowry and are driven to suicide. They might have to face a sexist boss at work or fend off an amorous colleague. A young college girl was shot dead by her stalker. A woman was chopped into pieces by her suspicious husband. A daughter was brutally killed by her family for the sake of honour. Her mother didn’t shed a single tear.

Incidents of rape have increased by a staggering 792% (yes you read it right) over the last 40 years. Ironically the conviction rate in rape and molestation is a dismal 27%. Men know they will get away with it. They can always point fingers at her and say – she asked for it.

I have countless memories of getting brushed inappropriately, of a seemingly harmless pat that lingered too long, of men stalking me. Young girls are the easiest target – they are unable to comprehend and mostly too scared to react. As a young girl it baffled me, now it fills me with fury. Was I asking for it?
 
I agree on certain fronts, women have never had it better – they are leading successful companies, heading governments, defying conventions, going where no woman has gone before. ICICI’s Chanda Kochhar became the first woman to get the ET Biz leader award. Mamata Banerjee overthrew the CPI(M) after 34 years of misrule. The country’s PM reports to a woman.

I have a theory here, most men have a problem handling assertive women. They do not know whether they should treat her with awe or contempt. If she says what she thinks, she’s a bitch. If she has guy friends, she’s a slut. If she wears makeup she’s fake, if she doesn’t she is a behenjee. It’s like one cannot do anything without being labelled.

The more she tries to move forward, the more she’s pulled back. You had no business being out so late at night. You were drunk, what were you thinking! How dare you spurn my advance! You need to be taught a lesson.

I know many of you will dismiss it as yet another feminist rant. But remember, next time it could be someone you love. No one is safe. Families, who don’t think twice before snuffing life out of their baby girls, remember there will come a time when there will be no women left for your darling boy. Will you also buy a bride?

I have been seething with rage ever since I read about the battered baby Falak fighting for her life at AIIMS trauma centre. The two year old baby girl was admitted with severe bruises on her body, broken arms, head injuries and bite marks on her body. The perpetrator of this crime, a 14 year old girl forced into sex trade. The child is fighting for her life but you know what! I don’t want her to live. Falak will grow up in a country where even an 80 year old destitute woman gets digitally raped by a 19 year old boy. A boy young enough to be her grandson.
Minds are getting dirtier, crimes nastier. Perversion knows no limit. We need to stop letting our daughters believe they are the weaker sex. They should be able to defend themselves physically and not hesitate in reporting such instances. You are weak only if you think you are. You are a victim only if you suffer silently. We need sensitivity, intervention and engagement. If a crowd of ten witnesses a man trying to molest a woman, should they not intervene? What stops them from thrashing cads who think a woman is no more than an object. If you choose to be a mere spectator, you are guilty as well! Laws punishing sexual assault exist but we need stricter implementation. It’s not just a physical assault, its mental trauma and loss of faith. Such cases should be dealt with sensitivity and not sympathy.
 
I know it sounds harsh but shouldn’t men who abuse babies and toddlers be sent behind bars for life! Or better still, they should be castrated! Isn't it time we started demanding zero tolerance!

Till then this is no country for women.




Source :-

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When my heart went vroom vroom


Cartoonstock.com
Like any another young girl, I used to find bikes and bikers incredibly hot. Not the paunchy, uncle type but the dude in unwashed jeans who zig zagged past your dad’s car. With a messenger bag slung carelessly across his chest, his muscled forearm expertly revving up his mean machine – didn’t you all follow him with puppy dog eyes, steadfastly ignoring the kid brother smirking on the seat next to yours! The hot one invariably had a cool femme clutching to him for dear life, her tresses flying silkily behind her. How many times have we tried to catch his eye as he waited impatiently at the red light crossing! I did it all the time.

Girls love fantasizing about bad boys. It’s another matter that they prefer settling down with the enfant terrible’s nerdy brother. Risk is hardly conducive to a happily ever after.

We did have a neighbour who fancied himself as a biker dude. Actually he wasn’t exactly a neighbour but G Aunty’s lover. G Aunty a loud, over dressed woman who fancied herself as Rekha’s local avatar, loved throwing parties. Not the regular parties but the type that had lots of gana, bajanaa and uncles ogling at girls shaking their booty to – jab chhaaye mera jaado koi bachh naa paye...Haaai.

Every time I walked back from the bus stop, he would be squatting and giving his machine a vigorous polish. But he was stocky, balding, kind of ugly, very-very old and sartorially challenged. When you are fourteen anyone above twenty seems ancient. Munna Bhaisahab(his universally accepted nick) walked with a swagger and even had a wife. She hardly looked like the suffering, embittered spouse. I guess she was glad to get him off her back.

But I refused to let such unsavoury memories mar my dogged devotion to the biker clan.

When I finally got a chance to ride a motorbike I was terrified. Since the chap driving it was not a boyfriend, I couldn’t even cling to him for dear life. I must have looked quite a sight, sitting ramrod straight, looking petrified. My dying to be boyfriend in college would often try to lure me for a date with the promise of a bike ride. But my brother used to call me Mother Teresa and I tried my best to live up to the title bequeathed upon me.

I did date a biker chap briefly. In fact he was my long time crush. When he finally deigned to look at me, I collapsed like a pack of stacked cards. I often hear boys complain about girls or rather the lack of them. In my opinion most of them don’t even know how to treat a girl right. Imagine sitting in a restaurant with your “Greek god”, all you can notice is the coy looks directed at him from left, centre and right - yet he has eyes for no one but you?

My Greek God now looks like a worn out gent and I can’t stop thanking my lucking stars for not having ended up with him. Getting together is easy when you have moved apart.

God always rewards good girls and look what he had in store for me - a man who was an answer to all my prayers. And what’s more he HAD A BIKE and muscled forearms! Since we were to get married in six months and I was desperate to make the most of our courtship. Unfortunately my parents’ idea of a rendezvous with my fiancĂ© was rather unusual. The entire family would frolic together at the Baha’i temple/Mughal Gardens/some other random park. So it became my responsibility to engineer our dates. It was during this phase I discovered my innate talent for fiction. Sudden emergencies would crop up, I had to save my distressed friends, submit a form urgently and who else would come to my rescue but my Superman on his bike! And did we have fun whizzing all around the town. Me clinging to his warm back, almost throttling him with all my unspent passion... Laughing at his jokes including the unfunny ones and him keeping a straight face when I would turn up with my eyelids smudged with a violent shade of blue... At 22, my make-up sensibilities were rather awkward. What I lacked in skills, I would make up with myriad colours.
 
I was now married to a biker dude and I was on a high – is that what you think right? It’s only when I started co-habiting with one, did I realize I had a rival vying for my beloved’s attention. Every weekend he would spend inordinate hours grooming his bike. Admiring it from different angles, giving anguished cries when he discovered little scratches and when I would say it’s just a stupid bike – he would make me the unwilling recipient of his aggrieved looks. Boy! Did it make me mad! To make it worse, I couldn’t even scream at this inanimate object! So I silently put up with it and whined once in a while.

I whined louder every time I had to plonk myself on its backseat to commute. My short hair instead of swaying silkily would billow in perpendicular direction, a million acne would merrily erupt on my face and my nose would be assaulted by the traffic smells. By the time I got off from my high horse, I would be looking like a war ravaged victim from far off Bosnia. Soon I adopted an all new look to save my face – a scarf covering everything visible above my neck, an oversized shade resting on my nose bridge, a wind cheater to protect the rest of me. Why! I even had a cute pair of gloves to wear in the evenings. I was now looking like a commando out to bomb Bosnia.

As newly married we would often get invited to dinner engagements and parties. God forbid if the host decided to see us off. He had put up with agony of seeing us layering up painfully. Just as he was about to say Achha Betaa bye, out came another jacket, cap or scarf! Just like another rabbit from the magician’s hat.

My ride was no longer thrilling, it was a pain. It was either too hot, too cold, too wet for a motor bike. On long trips I would bury my face behind his back and wait for my ordeal to come to an end. My romance with the bike had come to an abrupt end. Just eight months into our marriage and I made him buy a car.

Our biking travails are now part of folklore – little nuggets we sometimes share over a cup of tea.

The other day as I was waiting at the traffic junction, I spotted a dude on his bike – scruffy, almost handsome, his bag slug carelessly; he was tapping his foot impatiently. And I giggled like a school girl, a little self consciously. But when he took off like a maniac, zipping through lanes I crinkled my nose in disdain. Show off, I muttered under my breath.

The woman took over the young girl in me and I sighed wistfully!
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