Move to WordPress.org

Hi guys. So I have finally managed to shift completely to my own servers, with the same QuixoticSemiotic domain. I’m not quite sure what the situation with the followers is at the moment, but if you would like to read my stuff, please subscribe at Quixotic Semiotic.

Here’s my first post on there to lead the way.

Incredible India is a Myth

Cheers everyone!

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Dark, Fat, Ugly, Everyone is Beautiful

The ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign started by Nandita Das immediately caught my attention, as I belong to the darker persuasion myself. This is somewhat of a genetic aberration because my mom has much lighter skin, but the accepted explanation for this anomaly is that I was tossed into an incubator and my poor mother had to hang around the hospital to feed little jaundiced me. So the tale goes that I was born white and then all the rays from the photo-therapy darkened my skin to the luscious brown it is now. I question the scientific reasoning that was the foundation for this story but I’m really not complaining. Thankfully, my parents didn’t give a crap either. All my limbs were intact and I was jaundice free. Anything after that had to be a welcome bonus.

But as always, if you’re born in India every relative and the aunty brigade has to have an opinion about personal issues. “Why is she so dark? Don’t let her play sports any more!”, “Oil her hair everyday, who will marry her without a thick braid”, “So many pimples she has paapam, my Pinky has clear skin”. I’m just glad my name isn’t Pinky or Dolly or anything that ends in a y. The pimples will clear up but that’s here to stay. I’m pretty sure this was all well meaning advice, because this is what society’s expectations are and we’re supposed to adhere to some standard that somebody set. For me it was a non-issue and it always will be.

Time to wade into murky waters. It was a non-issue for me, only because I somehow managed to get past every other hurdle that society threw at me. I’m dark, but I have big eyes and I can style my hair decently to cover the bald patches (HAH). I’m average sized as far as weight goes, and tall enough to pass off as an adult (at last). I think the campaign comes from a good place, but I question its usefulness. People are discriminated against for all sorts of things. Fat people. Ugly people. Dark and fat. Ugly and fair. Fat and ugly. Are we going to start campaigning against every single bias that we have?

I realized how inadequate so many young girls felt purely because they couldn’t live up to the societal standards of beauty.

I am shocked to see the rise in the number of fairness creams, dark actresses looking paler and paler with every film and magazines, hoardings, films and advertisements showing only fair women.

There is nothing wrong with what Nandita has to say, but skin colour is the least of our problems. Every page of every magazine tells us that fat is ugly. Every film star endorses six pack abs and size zero figures. This is so much more prevalent than fair actors and fairness creams. Some people are fat. Unhealthy or not, that’s how it is. Can we start campaigning about how unfair it is that society has created a standard of what is thin and what is fat? Beauty according to societal customs is defined as symmetry of features, big almond shaped eyes and button noses with angular cheekbones. Bad features? Ugly. Bad teeth? Ugly. Bad figure? Ugly. Dark skin with killer features and a hot bod? I don’t see anyone complaining. The so-called standards of beauty are constantly evolving. In the 60’s, a woman with curves was a bombshell and a skinny girl was a boyish waif. The tables are always turning.

The point is this — beauty always has and always will be in the eyes of the beholder, and we will always want what we cannot have. Fair skinned, vampire-y skinned people in the West go tanning because chalky white skin is a fashion faux pas while we go through the ritual of spreading dollops of fairness cream every morning. I go to the gym every day to lose pesky fat and my grandmother tells me I need to put on weight. There are always going to be people who cash in on our insecurities — celebrities, fitness trainers, plastic surgeons and fairness creams, but this a battle we just can’t win. Advertisers will advertise because as long as there is a demand, there will be a supply.

Countless studies have shown that attractive people are more successful in life, that things are always a little bit easier for them. There is no way to fight that kind of inherent bias, we all make those judgements. These are the uncontrollable factors given to people by an awesome gene pool and a whole lot of plastic surgery. This whole dark issue is moot. Instead of attacking the advertisers and the fairness creams, how about a campaign to teach young people to take pride in themselves — mind, body and soul? How about teaching teenagers that looks will come and go, but it’s intelligence and confidence that will take you the rest of the way? How about teaching parents to raise their kids to be tolerant and accepting of everyone regardless of height, weight or skin colour?

Beautiful inside and out. That’s how we should feel about ourselves and balls to everyone else.

In conversation with a jaded Indian man and a dented-painted Indian woman

(Taken from comments made on my post, Mujhse Fraandship Karoge and Other Inconvenient Truths)

I am an Indian guy and I need to say many things from my own experience. I have noticed that Indian girls who are good-looking have a feeling of pride and attitude and behave as though all men are their slaves.

People who consider themselves God’s gift to the world do have that attitude and this goes for men and women all over the world! I’ve had guys not give me the time of day because I wasn’t upto their standards of attractiveness. It works both ways. I really don’t think this is a gender issue or even an ‘Indian’ issue.

Regarding attitude that you mentioned as not being gender specific, I again disagree. Perhaps, what you say is true to an extent. But there is no denying the truth that good-looking women have an attitude much more than their male counter-parts.

Although I’m inclined to dismiss this as hyperbole, I’m going to answer this anyway. Why do ‘hot’ Indian girls have so much attitude? Setting aside the fact that this isn’t something that is specifically gender based, I’d like to focus on why ‘good’ looking Indian girls in particular are said to have this ‘attitude’.

Easily put, it is self preservation. The thornier the exterior, the less likely anyone is to approach. Every woman in the country has been mentally undressed at some point by leering men, and this as everyone now is well aware of, is the least of it. And of course there is the slut shaming, where a girl who has a lot of guy friends is immoral and loose, and a BAD BAD girl. No wonder then that girls (in particular the ‘good’ looking ones) would rather be ice queens than be vulnerable to this quagmire of unpleasantness. But like I said in my earlier post, it’s something that I’ve personally been working on as a part of my own effort. This gradual change in attitude needs to be augmented by changes in the very system.

Somehow, Indian women (urban educated), it seems have got it into their heads that they are superior to the men. I wonder what makes Indian women  pride so much when they are not even half as beautiful as their Russian and Ukranian counterparts (although I agree beauty is relative).

I’m an ‘urban educated women’ as you put it, I don’t know why you think we consider ourselves superior to men. We have finally reached a time where we see a significant number of Indian women working, driving and doing other ‘manly’ activities.

That is a different debate altogether whether feminism has brought about good or bad in society To me, its definately made society worse.

Oh dear lord. To anyone who says this, all I can say is — keep your women safely locked up in the kitchen  because if you had it your way that’s where we would be. No voting rights, no right to inherit property, no right to our own reproductive choices, no protection from domestic violence and the list goes on. I see how it has made society worse.

Do we take pride in the fact that we are making huge strides in this male driven society? Yes.

Again its another debate and about technology having been the cause of this so-called empowerment. But its definately NOT a male driven society as you women claim it to be. I would dispute that; contest it and I have enough reasons to do so. Rather, I would say its always a female centric society where men are made the scape goats whenever the need arises.

India is a male driven, patriarchal society. Period (oh wait, that’s a female thing).  Sigmund Freud stated that for women ‘anatomy is destiny’ and it makes me sad, because it is true. Even now I hear friends’ parents telling them not to choose Civil or Mechanical Engineering because girls can’t work on the field. Even now, in 2013 I have friends who aren’t allowed to enter the kitchens in their homes because it is their time of the month. Even now, women in the corporate world can never feel secure about their jobs after taking a maternity leave. Even now, hostel timings are set at 6 p.m. for girls while there is no such need for the boys. Even now, at 21 I get asked when I’m going to get married because that is my sole goal in life. Someone needs to tell me how this isn’t a male centric society. In all honesty, I’m not sure if I can even call myself a feminist. I wrote about it in an earlier post, “Where do we go from here?”. Sometimes I wish it was black and white.

Yes, there are cases when men are falsely accused of rape and women get the benefit of the doubt. It does happen, and it is wrong. There are women who use their gender as an excuse to be morally repugnant. It is best to acknowledge that these situations do exist, but at the same time remember that so many crimes against women go unpunished.

Do we feel empowered that we can stay alone and work in a different city without fear? Yes. Does this have anything to do with men? No. It is just pride in our own achievements, that we are able to do things our mothers and grandmothers couldn’t do.

Too much of corporate-fed media here. You are brain-washed to believe that mothers and grandmothers weren’t achievers. They were bigger achievers than all the achievement that you can ever imagine. Just because they didn’t mean much to the MNCs as they led simple lives didn’t mean that they were under-achievers. Turning a house into a home is a much bigger achievement than owning bungalows, cars and 10 digit packages.

By achievements, I don’t mean earning truckloads of money and owning bungalows (although that is never a bad thing). My grandmother on my father’s side was married at the ripe old age of 14. When I think of myself at 14, I can only scoff at the idea of getting married then. There are so many things she could have done, if she had the chance to. She didn’t even get a chance to work on her hopes and dreams. Turning a house into a home is a huge accomplishment, I don’t deny that. Was it their dream? Was it the only thing they wanted to leave behind? Was it a choice or an expectation? We have an entire world full of possibilities now. 

We claim that we are a gender equal society. Then why the hell should a guy approach a lady and not the other way round? Why should guys pay the dating and dining bills and not the other way? (now don’t tell me that you go dutch. Saying is different from doing and even if I assume that you do, what about the other women?). 

We can’t claim that we are a gender equal society because we aren’t.

Yep, we are habituated to pampering women…..

For this I’m going to direct you to this wonderfully acerbic post. She tells it far more eloquently than I will ever be able to.

But lets say that men and women are to be treated alike. In which case, who pays rests totally upon the individuals in question. Sure, social norm for ages has been that the man pays. But that’s not the status quo anymore.

If a guy told me that he didn’t want to pay or couldn’t afford to pay, I would be okay with that. If he wanted to pay for my meal, I would be okay with that too. But I earn my own money. So I’d be perfectly comfortable paying for our meals. Can I speak for all women? No, I can’t. But it’s inaccurate to make a blanket generalization.

I do not agree with many many things that you have mentioned. First of all, I told you not to speak for yourself when it comes to paying bills. I have had this argument with many ladies who make such claims but when it comes to actual payment, they back out. Its real! Its my experience. What you speak here is immaterial; what you do in reality is what matters and there is a HUGE difference. Secondly, when you cannot speak for other women, why do you even need to refer to that? As a guy I know how many times I had to pay bills and how many times I was exploited. Sorry, I can’t accept your contention.

I’m sorry but no one is putting a gun to your head and asking you to pay. If you choose to go out with women who are that exploitative in the first place, that is entirely your fault. Women aren’t succubi. We’re not out to suck you dry of your money and your soul. If you’ve had multiple such experiences, I’m truly sorry but I think its time for an exorcism.

Regarding this article, its well-written. But, I also do not agree with you when you say that a guy who seeks ‘Fraandship’ is a bad guy.

The guys who seeks ‘Fraandship’ may not be a bad guy. However, when a person I don’t know sends messages like that after simply looking at my profile picture, I’m not going to be inclined to be friends with him. Even if he happened to be the nicest guy on the planet. That’s not how you approach a person.

For example, a guy added me on Facebook. He sent me a message saying, “Hey, I read your blog and I like the way you write. I wrote a blog exactly like that once and it felt like you expressed my thoughts exactly.” Would this be someone I’d like to be friends with? Yes! He shares my interests and I know he’s read my work. It’s all so subjective really.

This is one of the fundamental differences between the psychology of women and men. You cannot deny this. Women and men are different in many ways and I sometimes wonder in the correctness of gender equality itself. How can there be equality between two different creatures?

And finally the cusp of this mostly fruitful discussion. I wrote about Gender Bias-ity and I strongly believe that the only thing different between men and women is anatomy. Two different creatures would suggest a different species altogether and that isn’t the case. Gender equality, by strict definition is that men and women should receive equal treatment. Arguably, this is the final destination that we need to reach. I will go on a limb and say maybe this means that as women we need to let go of certain privileges bestowed on us for the sake of equality.

If I have to give up men opening doors for me and paying the check in return for equality in other places, that would be the best trade I’ve ever made. 

Sylvia, Esther and The Bell Jar

I just finished reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and now I have a rabid dog feasting in the recesses of my brain as my mind whirls and churns and futilely attempts to make sense of everything and nothing. The Bell Jar is often compared to Catcher in the Rye because of its Hollywood-esque ‘coming-of-age’ theme that everyone seems to adore. I wouldn’t even know how or where to begin the comparison. I sympathised with Caulfield’s travails, but I saw myself in Esther Greenwood. She is deviously smart, and like most smart people she breezes through her classes without absorbing an inkling of knowledge. She somewhat penitently but with a smidgen of smugness admits to exploiting the system by convincing her chemistry professor Mr Manzi that she shouldn’t take the class because she would get an A anyway. It is easier than it sounds, because by virtue of my grades I got away with a lot of things I shouldn’t have.

Esther’s descent into the darkness is so logically chronicled that it feels strange that anyone should feel otherwise. It makes depression feel like the natural state of the mind, and happiness an aberration. The fact that this is a semi-autobiographical story stops me from discounting any of Esther’s thoughts as ‘this is fiction, this doesn’t happen in real life’. She goes through the quarter life crisis we all struggle with, she’s constantly asked what she wants to do next, and she doesn’t have the answers and neither do we, most of the time.

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

The book was written in a different time, when women had to choose and there were no in-betweens. But even now, we face the same questions, the guilt and the torment. We shuttle between our wants and our needs, the precarious balance between all things wanted can never be at perfect equilibrium. You balance the scales, adding and removing, hoping that you get there before you tip over.

“When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.
“Oh, sure you know,” the photographer said.
“She wants,” said Jay Cee wittily, “to be everything.”

I think Allison Pearson’s, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” portrays the struggle without a hint of sugarcoating.

The way I look at it, women in the City are like first-generation immigrants. You get off the boat, you keep your eyes down, work as hard as you can and do your damnest to ignore the taunts of ignorant natives who hate you because you look different and you smell different and because one day you might take their job. And you hope. You know it’s probably not going to get that much better in your own lifetime, but just the fact that you occupy the space, the fact that they had to put a Tampax dispenser in the toilet – all that makes it easier for the women who come after you….

Esther feels the same way, albeit without the pedigree of experience. Her musings on the injustice of it all, that a woman’s virginity was to be guarded like treasure but a man had no such qualms. The hypocrisy of the society she lived in rankled, until she could no longer take the weight of those expectations. She sleeps, but she cannot sleep. Words are as undecipherable as hieroglyphs. She is suffocated by the stale air, a butterfly in a jar. Freedom doesn’t always mean being free.

To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.

because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.

She paints her suicide attempts like works of art. Simple clean lines, a razor blade is to puncture delicate skin and that is its sole purpose of existence. When she finally creeps into the cellar and swallows down a bottle of pills, I felt the terror she seemed immune to. The images in my head looked like a David Lynch movie. I once knew Sylvia Plath as a talented poet who stuck her head in the oven. She is so much more than her tragical end.

This entire diatribe has been littered with random thoughts and quotes in no particular order and with no significant meaning. But this is what lingers after reading the book, and this is what I will remember for a long time to come. In particular, these few sentences of the book are what I consider the bane of my existence.

How could I write about life when I’d never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? A girl I knew had just won a prize for a short story about her adventures among the pygmies in Africa. How could I compete with that sort of thing?

I often wonder. How can I write about life?

We the Twenties

We whine incessantly, drone on and on
She said. He said. Oh my god. I hate the world
Too old for teen angst and too young for placid calm
We the twenties, we have it good.

Lives lived in cocktail glasses, martinis
Rose tinted aviators, perched jauntily
On noses so high up in the air
Young, bold and beautiful
We laugh, we scream, we drink, we love
We the twenties, we plot our dreams on complex maps.

Those untwenties, what do they know
Faded ages, faded faces
This unerring confidence, a totem of sorts
Worn like a badge of honor
We the twenties, we know everything.

All it takes is a single crack, a shard of glass
A push turned into a shove turned into a fatal jump
How much do we know now?
Oh you untwenties, you are older and wiser
Those aged faces, those are marks of wisdom
Even the best maps can’t take us to places that don’t exist
We the twenties, we will eventually learn.

After being torn to shreds, ripped by cataclysmic desires
We start to resemble the jaded untwenties
But we have superpowers, that auto-detonate
Intense hope and brighter dreams
A renewed jolt of what ifs and maybes
The elixir of youth isn’t staying young
Its keeping that same hope alive
And the untwenties can shove it
We the twenties, we’ll be happy,

Why Game of Thrones is Awesome

So with the new season of Game of Thrones underway and ever since I decided to start reading the books (1 and 2 DONE. Woop woop), I began to wonder what it is about this show (and the books) that makes it so universally loved. I mean people who found Harry Potter hard to understand watch the show (erm, how?). Inexplicable as it may seem, here’s a list (I seem to have a list fixation) as to possible reasons why.

  1. People are sick of sitcoms and so am I. SPOILER ALERT. The final reveal of the Mother in HIMYM has left legions of fans crying into their pillows (my sympathies; if I watched an otherwise mediocre show which in a cheap but clever act of gimmickry waited 8 seasons to show the owner of an umbrella, I’d cry too). I don’t wanna watch pseudo-situational pseudo-comedies any more, especially when they question my intelligence as a viewer by giving me cues to laugh. Stop telling me what to do! That wasn’t funny at all and the ‘hahahahs’ in the background aren’t gonna convince me otherwise.
  2. After listening to legions of whiny women crying about their relationships and how ‘Men are the Devil’, I am finally happy that a show portrays women to be strong, conniving and beautiful all at the same time. Case in point Daenerys and Cersei. These women are powerful, they make their own rules and basically kick some butt.
  3. It has blood. It has gore. It has a lot of sex. And boobs. BOOBS. Hit the jackpot there because these elements just appeal to the vile and voyeuristic qualities we all have (or is it just me?). I liken it to the scene of an accident. Everyone knows it’s going to be unpleasant but a crowd of people will gather to watch anyway. But with that said, the show itself is quite sophisticated. The subtle nuances in the script (and the actors’ expressions) make it such a joy to watch. The humour is dark, and the scenes are intense. It grabs your attention right away.

    Ooooh, errr.

  4. They found an incredible cast. I don’t think anyone can play Tyrion better than Peter Dinklage can. Having read the book, all the actors fit the characters like a glove. Pretty much exactly the way I imagined them to be. I’m glad they didn’t make it into a movie straight, because the books are ornately detailed and to give justice to the books, every book requires at LEAST a season.
  5. George R. R. Martin (genius this man) doesn’t hesitate to kill off major characters. None of your favourite characters is safe. They could have their heads on a pike in any episode. That kind of makes you want to keep watching.
  6. Finally, the elements of Westeros are beautifully depicted. They don’t dumb it down and insult your intelligence. You can expect a shocker in every episode. It’s a WIN all around.

Ladies, Go Home

Until now I had mistakenly assumed that Hyderabad was far less conservative than its neighbours in the South and that women traditionally held positions of significance in their public and private lives. I returned to Hyderabad on my usual weekend sojourn only to find news that was a smack in the face of all development. If you haven’t read about it yet, then brace yourself before you attempt to read more. It will make you see vivid shades of red. The gist of it though, is a bunch of legal aged partygoers went to a pub for a farewell party being organized by their juniors. While they were leaving the premises, they were filmed by a TV channel against their wishes and repeated requests.

“The media persons were relentlessly chasing us, and even after getting into the cab, and hiding my face, they harassed me by pursuing with their cameras. They never let us explain what had happened before they arrived,” Sravanthi (name changed), a final year student of law said.

The versions of the story differ, but there was some kind of altercation between the media and the students. The next day, grainy footage of the girls appeared on major news channels, ‘fleeing’ the pub.

“On the morning of 12 April, news channels including TV9, Saakshi TV, Studio N and ABN Andhra Jyoti, aired a news story in which they claimed minor girls had created ruckus in an inebriated condition in Hyderabad.”

The pictures of the girls were blurred to suggest that the girls were topless and drunk. ‘Drunken ladies hulchul in Hyderabad’, ‘Special focus: Girls romance in hostels and rooms’, ‘Drunken women creates hungama.’ Gasp, women in a pub having a good time with a drink.

I bow my head down in shame. I’m a 21 year old girl. Yes I go to my fair share of parties. Does this make me morally loose and does this mean ‘Western culture’ has sucked out my soul? I don’t think so. But of course, regional television channels seem to think otherwise as they scrolled defamatory headlines over voyeuristic footage. I wonder what the main issue is here – drinking, women drinking or women drinking and protesting against unwanted filming. It seems that instead of moving forward we are regressing. The students in question have filed a case in court, a move which I applaud. I find this entire incident repugnant due to its sheer misrepresentation and bigotry against women. If it goes unquestioned, how many more injustices will be dealt out to the women of Hyderabad.

Sadly, it doesn’t stop here. The police seemed to have jumped on the moral bandwagon and have proceeded to cancel Ladies Nights in all the pubs of the city. This is to do what? Protect women (you will get raped if you are drunk)? Protect others from drunken women? But it seems even that wouldn’t suffice to curb the dented-painted women of the city, our policemen also set to motion the following rule.

“In an effort to discourage pub owners from attracting too many youngsters with offers like free drinks for women, Andhra Pradesh, one of the largest consumers of beer and cheap liquor in the country, has decided to ban the entry of women into clubs, pubs and bars after 10 pm.”

OH! So by 10 pm, we must go back to our kitchens and hang up our labels of being modern, free women along with all dignity and self-respect. And of course, wait for our men to come back from the pubs by 11 pm so we can welcome their arrival with a modest smile and eternal servitude. I see where this is going, and it isn’t a very good place.

Note: After I wrote the blog and the story was published, the Hyderabad CP and top excise officials told Firstpost that no such ban has been put in place yet. Emphasis on yet.

Sign the petition here (http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/victimization-harassment-and-defamation-by-local-news-media) and raise a hue and cry. This moral policing needs to stop.

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