Monday, July 30, 2012

Dressing down to save your soul.

It was my first bus ride to college. Just as I entered the DTC bus, I noticed over fifty pairs of eyes (all male) staring intently at my legs. Perplexed, I looked down wondering whether I had scribbled some unsolved equations on my legs.

I learnt my lesson on dressing appropriately the hard way. After that day, I never wore short skirts to college again.

Last week my daughter moved out of home and into college. The first thing I did was to shop for her wardrobe. Obviously she cannot be wearing skimpy outfits to college. So we went shopping for tees that hide and not reveal. She also got her first pair of salwar-kameez from Anokhi. As she twirled around in her all new ethnic avatar, I wiped silent tears for my baby ready to fly the coop.
 

Children grow up, mothers don’t.

The feminist in me was feeling like a hypocrite. Wasn’t it me outraging when Mamta Sharma cautioned women to be "careful" of how they dress because "such incidents (sexual assaults) are a result of blindly aping the West"? Don’t we all know, what you wear is hardly a deterrent for a man with rape on his mind. A beast’s mind knows no reason and follows no logic.

It is sad that women are unwittingly made custodians of Indian culture while their male counterparts strut around behaving like uncultured brutes! According to HT columnist Halarnkar "Men abuse women in every society, but few males do it with as much impunity, violence and regularity as the Indian male." Indian women not only have to deal with libidinous males but apathetic lawmakers who tend to blame the victim rather than the perpetrator. If she gets raped it must be her fault. If she’s reporting it, she must a prostitute who didn’t get paid. A society watches silently from the sidelines as a young girl gets molested by a group of men. If she’s out at night, drinking and wearing shorts, she deserved it.

I’d hate to have my daughter deal with a sick mindset that worships female goddesses but heaps the worst atrocities on its women. If she rejects advances from her suitors, she’s thrown off running trains, acid is splashed on her face or she’s publicly humiliated. We’ve had a woman prime minister and a president, yet one of the greatest tragedies in our country is that women are on their own when it comes to their own safety. In the metamorphosis of Bharat to India, in her evolution from nari to babe, it’s always her dignity that’s at stake.

Sadly even the media portrays the modern sexy woman as a trophy rather than a woman with feelings.

As long as we have separate rules for men and women, things will not change. As long as women are looked as responsibilities, they will continue to get exploited. Protecting her does not mean you curtail her freedom and convince her, it’s for her own good. A friend recounts her very first lecture by Dr. Aruna Broota from her Delhi University days. She said “When we have children, those of us who have sons should treat them the same way as their daughters. If there is an evening curfew for the girls, there should be one for the boys. Mothers who let their sons roam in herds at night to prey on women are the ones who should be held accountable for their son's actions”. Make him aware that men and women are entitled to enjoy exactly the same kind of leisure activities. A socially conscientious mother will bring up a son who respects and cherishes women around him, instead of looking at them as mere playthings.
 

A strong woman is the foundation of strong values in a society.

Passing new laws against sexual crimes will help only if the police is willing to implement it. Right now the system does its utmost to either delay, deny or subvert justice. Even if half the crimes against women get exemplary punishment, it will be a deterrent.

The feminine body is god’s most beautiful creation. It’s a pity if we have to hide it. Wear what you want but for a civilized gathering, where men know how to appreciate your beauty. And if you want to assert your freedom to choose what you want to wear, you should stop caring about that gaze that lingers on your cleavage and if you do, have the guts to ask him to fuck off! Till our men learn to respect our choices, we have to learn to protect ourselves. Every shove, every brush, every pinch deserves a retort. Yell, create a scene, prick him with a safety pin – do anything but tolerate it. Keep silent and rest assured there will be a second time.



Courtesy - Facebook

The skirt may have become shorter, the dress tighter but we are still stuck with a mentality that prefers subjugating its women. The emancipation is up to us.

Till we evolve as a society keep the Kali alive in you. Cover up if you have to but don’t cower down.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

How To Be A Pretentious Twit

He is everything that a stereotypical Delhi munda is not. Mostly sober, always sharp and bothering people since he was born, Kartikay now Yahoos in the Garden City. When he's not busy cracking codes, he indulges in Callous Caffeinated Conversations. He's also ambitious and aims to be the most pretentious twit of all. Here's Kartikay sharing expert tips on how to be one, in five easy steps...


Courtesy - Cartoonstock.com



I was running late. It was already ten past five and I had to meet a friend at the coffee shop next to the mall. But first I had to go to the bookshop; otherwise my plan for the busy evening would backfire. I reached in ten minutes and headed straight for the section with coffee table books. I scanned the shelves and found the one on Indian saris in the lower left-hand corner and proceeded to the billing counter.

“That’ll be thirty-two-fifty rupees, sir.”

“What? Really? That’s expensive. I just wanted a book that looks appealing from the sides, especially when stacked in a bookshelf.”

There was a moment of silence between the lady behind the counter and me. After an unusually long time a girl standing at the counter next to us turned to me and said:

“You are such a pretentious twit!”

“Why thank you! Really appreciate that. Meanwhile, could you recommend me a coffee table book ... ?”
 
We, the pretentious, are a rare breed indeed. There are a few of us remaining and most of our clubs have waning membership. Times have changed, and I fondly remember those moments in my tweed jacket discussing Nietzsche sipping on my electronic cigar.

Recognizing some talent in you, Purba ji, I’ve decided to give you a quick rundown for you and your husband to be prepared for the exhaustive interviews to our esteemed clubs.

1. Drink Wine

Nothing does a better job at pretentiousness than wine. Go out to an expensive place with a large bunch of people. Go ahead. Order that wine, especially when everyone else is so freaked out about the menu’s right hand column that they all order beer.

Once you have a glass in your hands, pick it up by the stem, swirl it around in the air once or twice and then sniff it. Make noises. Sniff again and take a light sip. Rinse your entire mouth with that wine just like you do with Listerine mouthwash. Don’t put down the glass. Keep swirling it in the air. Say words like “oxidation” and “palate”. Talk about why the Sula Dindori Reserve disappoints you, especially with the lack of flavour and the missing hint of tanin.
 
End it with a long dialog on why your Sauvignon pairs well with Butter Chicken.

2. Buy a DSLR

The problem with photography is that everyone can claim to be a connoisseur. Clearly that is not the case, and one way to prove that you are above the rest is to buy a DSLR camera. Be careful, however, that you become an expert only after the DSLR enters your house, and not since the time you ordered it online.

Even without the camera in your hand, be sure to include the phrase “rule of thirds” as you speak to others. For example, if you’re splitting a bill amongst three people, be sure to talk about the “rule of thirds.” In your daily speech, sprinkle in words like “kit lens”, “primes” and “chromatic aberration”.

Finally, upload your photos of flowers onto Facebook, or write a blogpost about them.

3. Pose with the DSLR

The drawback with owning a DSLR is that not many people know you own one. So when you’re talking about the “rule of thirds” some people might think you’re a douche instead of a pretentious twit. (We maintain a clear separation from the douches).

Luckily there is an easy fix to this problem. Upload profile pictures like the one below, preferably with clothing:

(For your use: Image URL: http://a2.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/320027_274301412580624_2642433_n.jpg)

4. Sport a Fake Accent

Colonialism has left us with a very clear and consistent idea of what pretentiousness is. Across all corners of India, there is no doubt as to who qualifies as a pretentious twit. This definitely works to our advantage, as we don’t have to try very hard in our attempt to ape the West.

The fourth step is to build on a fake accent, preferably American. (Note: most other accents backfire). This step requires practice and constant training. Dedication towards true pretentiousness should be an important motivator for you at this stage.

Do watch some videos to help you in this, like the one below. Work on words like “development”, “partteeyy” and “therttty faaiiivvee”

From my experience, I can tell you that if you can pronounce the “rule of thirds” in a pretentious American accent you have made amazing progress.

5. Run a Marathon

However, one must stride towards perfection, towards a holistic pretentious image. Since we’ve already talked about drinking habits, hobbies and speech, let’s dwell on sports now.
 
Research has shown that, across 186 nations, the most pretentious sport is running a marathon.

Luckily marathon organizers are aware of their pretentious appeal and cater to our segment by introducing “half-marathons” and “quarter-marathons”. Remember, as is with other things in life, the run-up to the event is more important than the event itself.

First, buy expensive running shoes. Did you know that our clubs tied up with a few shoe manufacturers to introduce pretentious running shoes? You can recognize them with wild designs on the outside but absolutely no benefit inside.

Second, start training, but ensure that your training statistics are published on Facebook. You must at least publish duration of exercise, number of calories burnt and kilometers run. If you’re having problems here, don’t worry, contact me and I can ensure these apps publish data without you actually running.

Lastly, go run the marathon. But, please, make sure you (a) get a photograph clicked of you running and (b) publish your official time. Even if you took more than 70 minutes for a half-marathon, it’s still pretentious enough.

You Can Do It
 
Dear readers, I believe that if you follow these simple steps, punch in some more enthusiasm, you can become one of us. It’s a wonderful world being a pretentious twit, full of colour, flavour and excess tannin.
 
I’ll end with a short but pretentious quote from Neitzche:

“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

P.S.: It’s always pretentious to include a post-script. Especially when it makes no sense.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Curious Case of Mangoes





Image courtesy - Random House

A Case of Exploding Mangoes tells the parallel stories of the circumstances leading up to Zia Ul-Haq’s dramatic end, and of Ali Shigri, a junior officer in the Pakistani Army, caught in a quagmire of conspiracy, revenge and loyalty. The story is set in 1988, with the backdrop of the Cold War, in which Pakistan played the role of the middleman between the U.S and the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

Mohammed Hanif had written a brilliant political commentary. It’s a no-holds-barred, blunt take on the people in power: the clueless President blinded by superstition and an overbearing sense of his own importance; the double-faced chief of intelligence who is simultaneously conspiring against, and sucking up to the boss; the corrupt Information Minister et al. It delves into the murky world of power-plays and one-upmanship in politics.

The yarn unwinds effortlessly and keeps you engaged. In fact, I had to put the book down every now and then just to let the newest twist in the plot percolate into my brain. The story sparkles with wit and caustic humour. However, for readers with more delicate sensibilities, some parts of the story can be too much to handle. I have read many vivid descriptions in my life: but passages about ripped-out ribs, steaming excreta, tunneling tapeworms and flying limbs left me squeamish. So a word of advice: keep a cheerful, no-brainer novel by your side at all times, for emergency purposes.

The dramatis personae of this tale are all portrayed as REAL people- not good or evil, but all shades of gray. Perhaps the only truly ‘white’ character in the story was Obaid (Baby O), who himself was in a sense a metaphor for the innocents inevitably caught in the crossfire. I did find myself rooting for the First Lady- cheering her on when she stood up to her shifty husband with dignity.

This is a book I would love to read again and again, because I know that with every read, I’ll discover something new. The story has many layers (Hanif has an almost pathological love for metaphors), an aspect that at times gives it a Murakami-like surreal feel. It makes you believe in the convergence of events, in the inevitability of fate. And, for some reason, it really puts you off mangoes.
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Monday, July 16, 2012

Much ado about Pee


Image courtesy - http://mindlesslampoons.blogspot.in/


On World Population Day a storm erupted in pee cup. A Swami in Agnivesh made a candid confession about his unconventional means to divest himself of his bed- wetting past. We laughed so loud that we ended up wetting our pants. Of course it was followed by the mortal fear of what if I am made to drink my urine to get rid of what might become a habit. After all it’s not every day that a self-avowed Hindu reformist proclaims “I used to drink my own urine to prevent myself from wetting my bed”.

The statement was in support of the unnecessary controversy surrounding a Vishwa-bharati student. She was made to drink her own bodily discharge by her warden from hell. If at 10, a child is still wetting her bed, surely it’s not a psychological disorder! Her well-wishers have the birthright to inflict more trauma to free her from this shameful habit.

As a nation that takes it’s Swamis too seriously including a motor-mouth called Subramaniam, I am terrified of the damning consequences of Agnivesh’s urine therapy.

Picture this – It’s a Friday evening and you head to the neighbourhood pub, hoping for a spirited evening. On the way you narrowly miss Dhoble and order yourself a drink to soothe your frayed nerves, only to be served a suspicious yellow looking thing. The bartender happily informs you that this all new cocktail, Pee-na-colada is on the house. You now run to the washroom with the intent to puke and you’re startled by a loud CHEERS emanating from behind one of the closed doors.


You’ve had enough for the day and decide to spend the rest of evening at Barrista. The boy at the counter asks you – coffee, tea or pee?


Your appetite now gone for a toss, you walk into a bookstore desperately looking for a comforting book that you can snuggle up to. And all you can see is stacks of the newest bestseller that’s taken the world by storm - Fifty shades of Yellow by P.James.

You sleep fitfully and wake up to newspapers full of reports of parents inspired by the all new U-therapy, who have decided to rid their babies of drinking and peeing problems in one go. Huggies in keeping with market demands has now started selling diaper shaped cups. In the business section, PepsiCo is planning the mega launch of its all new drink – Pissleri. Your Blackberry pings. It’s your company’s CEO Mr Mutreja, informing you that you’ve been made in-charge of Pissleri advertising blitzkrieg.


The slogan is already floating in your mind - Kyonki Pee ke aage jeet hai.


That night you can’t sleep, petrified what Swami Agnivesh has to say to men who have wet dreams.


A special thanks to the very talented Ravi for the doodle.
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sleebeless in Sealdah



Courtesy - Google Images


Long before the world discovered a fashion phenomenon called sleeveless, sleeveless discovered the Bengali woman. This was the time that Marxism was still a respected ideology in Bengal when the bhodro-mohila embraced the sleeveless blouse and sent the dormant hormones of the bhodrolok on an overdrive.

Thousands of kakis, jethis, pishis and mashis took to this garment like hilsa to water and achieved nirvana. I grew up in the company of flabby arms encased in these sleeveless wonders, getting an unhindered view of subcutaneous fat swinging in gay abandon, wincing a little at the sight of sweat forming lazy pools under the arms. For a young girl growing up on Krishi Darshan, this was my wicked pleasure.

This bare-dare act was confined more to the urbane Kolkata woman who was more comfortable with her sexuality and didn’t mind flaunting it. Her not so fortunate counterpart scattered around the country would wait for her annual trip to Kolkata to stock up on these flimsy nothings. Sleeveless, backless and a neck that was deeper than the Grand Canyon ravine – this was Bhictoria’s secret! Truth be told, a Bengali lady fancies herself more as Moonmoon Sen rather than Mamata Banerjee - perfectly complimenting the Bengali ethos that doesn’t let work interfere with its quest for pleasure.

Long before an aging beer baron anointed himself as the king of good times, the bhodrolok was living it.

The grooming starts at a very young age. While the young male prefers spending his youth doing adda on a rock, his female counterpart is busy loving humanity. For her prem-kora(doing love) is a day job. For a girl growing up in dry, desolate Delhi, this was beyond fascinating. In fact it was my curiosity for her penchant for romance that got me to learn reading Bangla. Reading salacious details about a 12 year old’s love for her Math tutor in an Agony aunt column of a Bengali magazine...Chronicles of the Boudi in her frilly floral nighty serenaded by her love-sick neighbour – all of 30, useless and jobless (unless you count prem-kora as a full- fledged job). Mills and Boons seemed pale in comparison!

When I was old enough to make my own sartorial choices, I was more coy than daring. For the longest I was convinced that that going sleeveless was the prerogative of the plump. But when I finally succumbed there was no looking back.

The modern nari has the choice to ditch the sleeves, go backless, have her garment hanging precariously from noodles, defy gravity and go stringless or even embellish her bra with crystals and pass it off as a blouse. Who doesn’t like the feel of sun and air on her assorted body parts?

Alas, good times come with an expiry date! Just when we were having fun playing femme fatales, some dork declared that it’s not okay to sweat and stink and had us clamouring for deo-sticks. And just as we were getting used to smelling of lavender and other flowers with difficult to spell names, there comes another dork and says –Hey girls, shouldn’t you be doing something about your yucky, dark armpits?

Ah! The unbearable pressure of going sleeveless – pour hot wax over hair follicles, rub copious quantities of deodorant and now put a shade card to check if you are fair enough! Raising your arms was never this stressful.

Imagine being judged on the basis of our armpits! No thank you, I would like have my sleeves back please.

Suddenly, the Bengali bhordromohila in her sweat soaked Ladies Dream blouse, flaunting her tuft a la Julia Roberts seems ultra-cool.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Goddamn you particle!


Courtesy - Manjul.com


Imagine spending over a decade in quest of a boson named Higgs. Imagine spending over 54,000 crores and 500 trillion particle collisions in a very large collider only to sheepishly announce – Err...we are 99% sure that this is the Higg one, the remaining 1% we are leaving to God.

Quite like Bata’ 999.99 prices.

Little wonder that scientists at CERN unveiled their findings using Comic Sans. They wanted to make sure that we take their declaration with a pinch of humour.

Agreed that scientists are born to doubt and counter doubt, but did Archimedes stop to wear his underwear before he ran out screaming E U R E K A? There you are popping bottles of bubbly, your bifocals brimming over with tears of joy, yet you can’t get rid of that niggling doubt that has settled comfortably at the back of your mind – What if it turns out to be a devil in disguise?

But the good news is that Bengalis are confident that this is the real thing. If boson has Bose in it, how can it claim to be otherwise! If it is half Bengali, it has no choice but to be God. Mamata Di has already booked Eden Gardens to make a song and dance about it. The function may not have a beginning but will have a grand finale with Shahrukh landing in his Ra-One costume and planting a kiss on Didi’s oily forehead. Priyanka Chopra will then present the anti chip, chip cream to make Ms Banerjee’s forehead as dry as Thar before she breaks into an excited puppy dance.

To show my solidarity with Bengal,I have booked a Tatkal ticket for Kolkata. The only problem? It has been booked for July 2013.

China is a bit stressed. What the world does, this nation of chowmein does even better. They now have only a month to discover the For-God’s-Sake particle.

Needless to say, Indians found their God long time back - in Sachin the master blaster. And like the temperamental Higgs, HE made us wait for close to a century before he parted the sea with his bat.

If you are feeling left out, you can get your own personalized version of God. And no, you don’t have to collide invisible protons and neutrons to unearth it. Its counterfeit versions are readily available in Karol Bagh for just half the price! What the world creates, India recreates in days! Ha! They don’t call us the masters of reproduction for nothing.

Bhaiyya, 2 kilo God Particle pack kar dena...

My imagination is doing cartwheels, conjuring the far reaching implications of god in a particle. The joy of saying Higgs-boson-ki-kasam, I will drink your blood with straw...having Muesli fortified with nuts, seeds, fruits and god particles. The border patrol force can now look forward to apprehending criminals trying to smuggle in kilos of GP somewhere near the Mexico border....orgasming with Oh- God- particle... the possibility of discovering the Goddess particle as thousands of women collide at the much awaited Zara sale.....

The Almighty is now just a particle away.

Funny thing is we spend a lifetime looking for god when all the time He’s inside us, waiting to be discovered. Yet,we do our best to drive him away.

Irony at it's spectacular best?
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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Does Multiculturalism Breed Intolerance?

From the author: of  “Never Mind Yaar”  a thought provoking analysis on whether multiculturalism is breeding intolerance. KayEm feels "For most of us, it isn’t the desire to preserve one’s own traditions or culture that is the bigger problem. It is the use of violence to preserve it, to preserve any culture anywhere in the world that disturbs"......

Courtesy - presstv.ir
The majority of Norwegians let him know that unequivocally.

He gunned down 79 Norwegians – all helpless, all innocent, all harmless and full of LIFE and fun. To my mind his reason for doing it was warped. He only wanted people of his own kind to be in his country and no one different. So he killed people of his own kind. This is the reasoning of a terrorist if ever there was reasoning from one. Kill my own kind to save the world from the different others.

The end, that of letting the world know his point of view, justified the means. The means were his plotting for over a year and then putting his plan to kill some wonderful human beings into action. He snuffed out their young lives, destroyed their families by causing them unbearable anguish and then stood vulgarly in court facing the victims’ families trying to seek his moment of justification, fame and glory.

He said he was against the policy of multiculturalism and for letting “Muslims into Norway”. If we can force the government to break down multiculturalism by killing just 70 people that will preserve our values and prevent war in future. He felt the victims were being indoctrinated for multiculturalism by their leaders – the Labour party. Most of the victims were the youth wing of the Labour party.

What a worm; what a warped mind; what a disgraceful, sick, miserable creature to believe he had the right to kill other human beings to get his message across.

Here’s what the Huffington post had to say. When Breivik addressed the court, he lashed out at everything he finds wrong with the world, from the Labor Party's immigration policies, to non-ethnic Norwegians representing the country in the Eurovision Song Contest and the sexually liberated lifestyle of the characters "Carrie" and "Samantha" in "Sex and the City." These are the ideals that are presented to our sisters and daughters today," he said. "They should be censored and removed from our society."

Ask whoever was left to grieve over the loss of family members at his hands and they would repulse and reject his calling them his “sisters and daughters” with all their hearts. He was their killer and as one victim’s mum put it, she hoped she would never have to see his face again and that he would just disappear from Norwegian society into jail forever.

Which brings me to what Breivik didn’t like - multiculturalism. There are so many in the world who subscribe to the view that their own culture is the only one to live by. Most of them might despise others who are different but on the whole, they are peaceful and abhor violence.

Let us talk about India. We have hard core Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Tamilians, Christians, Parsis and in fact, hard core traditionalists in every community that lives in India. They feel theirs is the only culture that is truly gracious, the only religion that will give them a passage to heaven and theirs is the only language worth speaking. They might live side by side with the hateful “others”, send their children to the same schools and even work with them but only because they have to. If they do speak about these others, it is only to heap scorn on their differences.

Most of the rest of us are quite happy to live side by side with people from other cultures. We have this easy going attitude of live and let live and are comfortable with our differences. What’s more, we feel free to indulge our curiosity for and enjoyment of the huge variety of traditions and cultures we have always lived side by side with.

Here’s a strange phenomenon. We might be easy going about other cultures but we are really proud of our own. Imagine someone trying to criticise anything about our heritage, our khandaan, and see how quickly that puts our defences up. It is curious because this pride we have in our own unique culture simply cannot be explained away by reason or logic. It just is, wherever in this world we might be.

Then why blame someone trying to preserve that “uniqueness”? There are many reasons. Many of us grow up understanding that our liking for individuals is irrespective of culture. When youngsters fall in love with someone from a different culture ask them what they would give up easily – their desire to preserve their “uniqueness” or their friendship? When I watched the movie, “Bombay” I know I wanted the two young lovers to be happy together irrespective of the fact that one was a Hindu and the other, a Muslim.

For most of us, it isn’t the desire to preserve one’s own traditions or culture that is the bigger problem. It is the use of violence to preserve it, to preserve any culture anywhere in the world that disturbs. It goes against our core humanity. To witness carnage and bloodshed sickens us. The majority of Norwegians spoke out against Breivik for that very reason.

They spoke out against the violent methods he adopted to highlight the “problem” which isn’t to say they spoke out for the immigration of people who they perceived as different, into their country. That is a separate issue. It remains a problem in many countries today, including India. Why, I hear you ask, is it an issue in India? In India, we already are a multicultural society. We’ve had people of different cultures, religions and languages (say at least seventeen languages and 5 to 600 dialects?) living side by side for hundreds of years. I might even be justified in adding peaceful co-existence has been an issue with us way before it became an issue for some other countries. Their problems of trying to assimilate people of different physical appearances and from different religions and cultures started in earnest after WWII. It is fairly recent.

In India, we’ve been multicultural since centuries with a large number from every community suspicious of the “others”. And as we all know, of late, many of our hard core traditionalists have resorted to violence to uphold their own values and traditions to the exclusion of all others.

How do we, the secular minded Indians, the ones who don’t feel threatened by the presence of other cultures in our midst address this issue? On two fronts.

First, to try and understand why our traditionalists feel threatened and overwhelmed by other communities, why some of us have these nameless fears and prejudices against the others, I’ll let Bharati, a student of Gyan Shakti College tell us what she thinks.

Second, to solve the issue of violence because of racial prejudice, we have two options. First, we must denounce it. Not to do so is to condone it. To condone something that goes against our basic human values eats away at what makes us human.

Secondly, we need ongoing discussions to try and resolve this issue. It has come back to haunt and hurt us repeatedly and open discussions and debates will throw up a few more urgently needed ideas to stem its growth. Perhaps Aamir and the makers of SJ are listening?! Perhaps this is what will give our non-violent but communal minded Indians the strength to speak out against violence within their ranks too.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Forever on a Sunday


Subho's Jejune Diet is one of the most avidly read blogs on Indiblogger. It's a must read for all of you looking for gyan on parenting, photography, investment, yoga... The man is a storehouse of knowledge! Once in a blue moon, he deigns to write a hard-hitting satire or a poignant story and leaves mere mortals like me whining for more. Presenting Subhorup's musings exclusively for A-Musing....

Courtesy - Google images


There is something special about Sundays. Rather than being the proverbial day of rest for me, Sunday has been the day to get the more important things done. The quiet coolness of the morning is perfectly balanced by the bite of a hot cup of tea as I sit after watering my tiny balcony garden and review my week, refresh my task list, and rejoice in the mysticism of domesticity.

A good number of my friends have a very different kind of Sunday. They work incredible hours during the week. When I call them at what I consider start of business, they have already packed in some power yoga, a power walk, a power breakfast, and a couple of business meetings. This frenzy is repeated in the evening, and in the case of people working with partners across the globe, into the night. Come Friday, they let their hair down, and then some more the next evening. As a result, they need much of their Sunday to recover from all of this letting down of hair. The maid is asked to come late, and the day begins as close to lunch time as possible. Before one knows it, the weekend is over, and it is back to the grind. I know this because I have lived this life for a good number of years too.

A couple of years back, I suddenly realized that I had sacrificed all my waking hours at the altar of building corporate profit. I had not only lost control over what I could do with my life and my time during the week, but also lost out on the magic of Sundays. I made a decision, not an easy one, to reclaim my life and to live deliberately, doing what was important in my scheme of things. It has not been an easy journey, but one that has been immensely rewarding. One of the greatest rewards has been the re-discovery of Sundays. From an outsider’s perspective, this might seem strange, as I don’t do anything that is conventionally understood as work all week, so Sundays should theoretically be no different.

The nature of my relationship with Sundays has morphed with time and as I have grown (or degenerated, some will say) as a person. Except for the aforementioned period when my Sundays were like punctuation in a Joycean rant, they have, however, been singularly rewarding all through my time on this planet.

These days, in the place of shaking sleep out by badgering me, the missus rises and shines by herself on Sundays and gets to finishing with the chores so that she is free by the time the great Indian guilt trip starts. This is followed by ninety minutes of peace as the phone doesn’t ring, the doorbell stays quiet, and even Twitter and Facebook go into a lull. The social media freeze continues well into Monday morning, with a million keystrokes churning out cathartic posts reiterating what Aamir Khan chooses to enlighten the nation on.

Sundays have been this distinctive right from my childhood. In the missionary boarding school that I went to, this was the only day of the week when you could clap and sing about how we were all going to hell in the wonderful acoustics of the chapel. At home during the vacations, it was usually luchi and alur-dom for breakfast followed by my parents friends dropping in for tea and conversation that stretched into lunch, with more conversation while sitting at the table with unwashed hands, till mom reminded everyone that she was making tea.

All good Bengali boys and girls grow up learning to sing Rabindra sangeet, and I was no exception. Sunday morning meant I would tuck my subsidized Bongolipi notebook under my arm, mom making sure my hair was oiled and combed, and head off to Subidh kaka’s house.

Every third Bengali is either a Tagore or claims to have narrowly missed being one. Subidh kaka was a Tagore too, and had a deep and resonating voice over which he had superb control. But in addition to that, he had large round eyes that kept rolling back into the top of his head as he immersed himself in the nuances of the words and music of Rabindranath. It would be very funny, and Bubai and Laltu and I would struggle to stifle our giggles. When it came to our turn to sing, our mirth would translate to strange quivers and trills that the songwriter had never imagined, followed by a total breakdown and Subidh kaka would be very surprised. Halfway through every lesson he would deliver a stern warning that if we giggled and rolled this way, he would stop teaching us. And that would have us rolling and giggling all over again. He would roll his eyes back again in exasperation and seek solace in music.

Once I had reached an age where I could hold my breath and refuse to go for these classes, it was time for the evergreen Bengali obsession, adda. As the epics unfolded on Doordarshan, our rootless khadi and denim glad band would gather at the local tea shop, and talk about everything under the sun. From Sarte to Jatin Chakraborty, nothing was deemed insignificant. And there was really no purpose greater than honing our logos-pathos-ethos abilities to these hysterical discussions. There were no set rules as to who would play gatekeeper and who would introduce a counterpoint just for the heck of it. The sessions ended with no conclusion, yet everyone went home to their Sunday lunch with a sense of having achieved something mysteriously significant.

As I left college behind and set out to support myself and create trouble on a larger scale, the concept of the day of rest emerged. Living in Bangalore bang on Brigade Road meant that Sunday mornings were the only time you could hear the birds call and the palm leaves rustle. Yes, there used to be birds calling and palm leaves rustling on Brigade Road in those days. All four of us who shared the apartment were fond of nature. We would wake up early on Sundays, make our way up to the sloping terrace, and enjoy nature.

Mrs. Kamath, our crazy and lovable old Mangalorean landlady, would smell nature wafting through the air and come out in the yard waving her walking stick and threaten to throw us out or report us to the police. At the high points of her tirade, she would lapse into Tulu some of which sounded like Bengali curse words to me. It was as much a routine for her as it was for us, since it would invariably be followed up almost immediately with a large platter of hot and delicate neer dosas that she would send up for us.

This culinary end to our morning nature study would be followed by classic rock and beer on the steps of Pecos and then a Malabari lunch at our favorite budget eatery, Kohinoor. At the start of the month, when all our wallets were loaded, Sunday mornings would find us at Koshy’s gorging on appams and mutton stew, a delicacy that was served only on Sunday mornings on first come first served basis. However, one had to wait till 11 to be able to order beer to wash it down with.

After settling down in Hyderabad, Sundays meant going book hunting in the used book market at Abids. Though you will find more of poorly printed pirated bestsellers here, one can still find classics and rare books if one invests the time and the effort of hunting through the piles of books that the seller stacks up at the corner of the stall rather than display them alongside chart-toppers. Another favorite Sunday activity of mine in Hyderabad is to walk through the flea market in the sidewalks leading up to Charminar. You can find everything from broken gramophones to second hand spectacles in these shops. A similar flea market springs up on Sundays at Erragadda. I have found some amazing music CDs and audio cassettes at these two places, but you will be well advised to carry a walkman and/or a discman to make sure that the disc or the tape plays satisfactorily.

I have never quite been able to convince my family and friends of the wisdom of getting out and doing things on a Sunday morning. At best, they tag along like fundamentalists at an all faith meeting. The streets are deserted, parking is in plenty, and public transport is comfortable. The stores are quiet, the billing queues non-existent, and the displays picture perfect. You can invariably walk up to the box office and be sure to get tickets for a Sunday morning show. Like the screening of counter culture classic in Metro cinema in Kolkata of my youth, a good part of serious Indian cinema finds a place in Sunday morning shows. In recent times, I have seen Leaving Home, perhaps the only documentary on an Indian fusion band and one that compares with the best in the genre globally, and Stanley ka Dabba, a brilliant piece of storytelling, on Sunday mornings.

The point of this extended discourse on my Sundays is simple. In the mad rush to have more and do more, we often fail to attend to our real purpose, to be all that we were meant to be. Our greed, our willful ignorance and our insecurities keep us from listening to our hearts and choosing the path that will bring the greatest good to the greatest number. There is no best time to see if you can listen to that calling but I have found that Sunday mornings tend to have that stillness that lets you hear it a little more clearly. God rested after six days of creation. In spite of all the evils that man perpetrates in his creation, I do not think he regrets what he has done, but he did give it a rest. I rest my case. May your Sundays be as meaningful as mine.

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