Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#metoo

Hadn't thought about these in a while.. but the posts triggered the memories . They still hurt, I can actually feel myself flinch, shrink, back off.. even at just the thought. 

How bad were the DTC buses? How bad was just walking down the road? It was so routine, and so common, and so trivially called 'harassment'. But what does that actually entail? That weekly at least once something harrowing would happen, leaving you in tears, angry frustrated, scared. Someone would follow you home. Someone would keep rubbing their dick against your back, or shoulder, throughout the journey. Someone would grab your boob. Someone would stare at you , their eyes boring right into your bone. Someone would sing lewd songs. Someone would ask for your rate, or better still just ask you to give a fuck. Someone would throw stones at you. yes literally. Someone would pull down their clothes and expose themselves. Over a decade, such stuff happened hundreds of times. In the anonymity of crowds. To everyone. Every damn week, sometimes everyday. 

But it wasn't the anonymous 'eve teasing' that left the deepest scars. No those are reserved for other instances. 

Like the time a neighbourhood uncle, nearing retirement, cornered an 11 year old in a lift and grabbed and kissed her. The stubble felt like needles.   

Like the question, can a 5 year old give consent? Does a 5 year old know what is being consented to ? 

Whats the worst part? So many women I know, shake their head knowingly about books like 'bitter chocolate', about the uncle from 'monsoon wedding', about safe short words like 'abuse', 'assault'. So many of them have said, over the decades, 'metoo' . No one wants the details. Me neither. I want to forget my own details, leave alone asking someone for theirs. Its scary how many of them I've met. 

So why am I publicly listing details today. Because I am tired of the safe short words. As if 'eve teasing' in a bus is just someone singing a love lorn song at your wistfully. It not. Because I want to shake people I love by the shoulders and say - listen. Goddammit, this is happening under your noses, how can you not see? 

Time has scabbed over the incidents. Maybe geography or age or my own armour have helped prevent much shit happening last few years. But the raw open wound is the one that bleeds every time I hear the incredulous ' wow how could it be so bad? how could x have got away for so long ? '

replace x with the flavor of the day - harvey, tarun, arunabh, travis, phaneesh, babas, bla bla

ps - please spare me the #notallmen. I know that not all men, in fact probably a majority of men, don't go around being physically abusive. I understand the 80/20 rule.  What I don't know , is what do you call a person who can't see what is happening right in front of them. 

This is a call to get glasses as a very first step. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Phones.

A couple of months back I started trying to cut back on phone use. By which I mostly meant internet use on the phone, the 'social' media, random internet browsing, incessantly checking whatsapp/twitter/facebook/newsfeeds.

It has been hard work and slow progress, with lot of hiccups, but overall it has been some improvement. The problem is that this is not a habit, but an addiction. A habit, once broken, might not come back quickly. But addictions are another story altogether.. so basically this is going to be a lifelong battle.

Last few years, we seem to keep increasing the frequency with which we keep checking the phones and cutting into all sorts of tasks ( eating, socialising, watching a movie, reading a book, cooking, working on a project). Its  self sabotaging, rude, depressing, addictive, and so hard to stop!

Need to pay closer attention..




Thursday, September 07, 2017

When is it time to let go? Of a person, of a friendship, of expectations? Today, of all days, perhaps I need to remind myself.

But letting go is not like turning off a switch. I have tried so many times in the last few years, but I still can't.

I am grateful for the space that I inhabit now, where I can at least move beyond the usual stories of - she hurt me, and how could she, and why won't she. I am grateful that I could move beyond those stories even when I didn't know why. Now I think I know why. Makes it a little easier I suppose. But I have yet to move beyond the hurt.

There is that little voice somewhere, hoping against hope, that things will go back to the way they were.

Maybe they will, maybe they won't. Maybe its me. Maybe not. Maybe its complicated. Whatever it is.. observe.. just observe.. don't get caught up in a story.. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Right and wrong..

Most conversations we have, we seem obsessed with right and wrong. I was like that for a long time, and it seemed like the most normal thing in the world.

But now, I increasingly find myself wondering, isn't it all subjective? I mean of course I have my dearly held beliefs and opinions and I am quite sure they are all right ( hah!). But isn't 'right' simply defined by the end result you want, or defined by your belief system of how things should be? Those things are changeable after all, they aren't written in stone, they are subjective. So doesn't 'right' change?

In a free wheeling discussion, on a variety of topics, I was surprised at how often the question would pop up - is it right or wrong?  To be a vegan ? To be a non-conformist? To be an introvert? To share happiness? To marry ? To adjust? To toe the line? To be driven by love, or fear? To kill?

I am wondering what am I missing that I had earlier because I never had this irreverence towards what seems like a central goal - finding out whats right. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

On gender...

An old quibble ( which has lately become a bigger fight) has been how 'culture' and patriarchy devalues what is perceived as feminine and places the masculine on a pedestal.

'Effeminate' is derogatory, while having 'balls' is a compliment.
Nurturing is for sissies, while fighting, even though ostensibly shunned, is actually a sign of strength.
Different cultures have their own phrases, stuff like choodiyan pehan rakhi hain, mehndi laga ke baithe hain etc.

And this story about a little boy not allowed to have a butterfly painted makes me sigh.

Its so subliminal and pervasive, that even strong women who would probably identify as 'feminists', urged me strongly to not allow my boy to play with dolls.

A big crying-shouting row ensued when I saw my dad trying to teach the child that trying to put on lipstick/bangles is laughable.  Not age inappropriate, or time inappropriate, but cause for scorn, laughter, derision, because it is (gasp) gender-inappropriate.

A little girl barely 5, with very strong gender equality influences, still picks up enough from the environment, to label a plain white t-shirt with a few small yellow and pink flowers, as a 'girls' dress. I look at clothing for for 1 to 4 year olds, specially in the US or the bigger brand shops here, and appalling is the only word that comes to mind.

Will just access to different toys/dress upturn a child's proclivities? Even if it did, why is that such a terrible thing? As if...






Friday, July 07, 2017

The ministry of utmost happiness - Arundhati Roy

Not really my cup of tea.

Began somewhat promisingly, and she surely has a way with words, but by the time political cataloguing began a 100 pages into the book, it became tiring.

The story of the hijras, of Anjum, of identity, ( and the problems with it)  was interesting to begin with. But everything subsequently looked like a catalogue from a left wing journal. The rise of the lalla, Kashmir, Maoists, caste, religion, the endless horrors of torture , oppression... I am sorry but  inspite of trying to live under a rock, I am very well aware of all of this. This is less a thought provoking or interesting story, and more a call to arms, a pamphlet, a shining of the light on the terrors of establishment. There is some beautiful prose in between, but unfortunately that is not enough. The ending I found specially terrible. Even making allowances for a lack of plot, character development. Even giving her the leeway  that this is more lament, litany and history, than novel. Even then, its almost like a cop out.

I am not sure who the targetted reader is, who would enjoy this.. but obviously looking at the ratings and reviews, there are quite a few who do. I am guessing that a fair number of them might be people not familiar with indian current affairs of the last 20 years. Perhaps if I read a similar novel set in Tibet with shallow plot and characters but some pretty writing, I would have been more charitable, since I would not find the cataloguing tiring.


Saturday, July 01, 2017

Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari

Really liked it.

In a way its a history book, tracing the history of homo-sapiens right from the times of and closing all the way in 2014. But its history viewed more from a lens of living conditions, what, and why. There is mercifully much less of the 'when', at least not in meaningless dates. After all, looking across millenia, what is a few days, or even decades, here or there?

It begins with a time which has always fascinated me, the 50 thousand years ago to 1 thousand years ago. As a kid, in the truncated and geographically limited history we studied, the focus was always on how awesome our indus valley civilisation was, and oh ok, we also traded back then with a few others, here read a bit about egypt, mesopotamia, china. Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking that everything beyond these was just jungle and monkeys. yet, there were a lot of niggling doubts, like how and when did places like america and australia get populated? But they stayed buried as niggling doubts. Then, when I read A history of the world in 100 objects, I was thrilled to find that there was indeed a lot happening all over the world in that period. This book covers a good bit of it, and is more provocative in its tone, putting forward interesting facts, and then building theories to explain them. Then hopping to the other side of the fence and demolishing some of those theories.

I found the initial parts the most engaging, the latter parts had considerably fewer facts or opinions/theories that were new to me.

Good read overall ! 

A death in the gunj - Konkona Sen Sharma

Quite loved it.

A family gets together in the quiet sleepy mccluskiegunj, for a week in the late 70s. Old friends visit. Jokes are cracked. Old alliances rekindled. Soon you can see that one of them, Shutu, doesn't quite fit in. To make matters worse, he is the youngest, the most quiet, and right then perhaps the most vulnerable. Family reunions can sometimes be celebrations in cruelty. Shutu , and his alienation are perhaps at the center of the film, but it languidly and economically takes in a lot more. I loved all the 7-8 of the actors, their performances probably make the key contribution in holding the tension in a slow moving but richly observed film.

It isn't a thriller, or whodunit. I thought the opening scene left no doubt about what happens a week later. Its not the 'who' or the 'what' .. but the why. And thats a hard one to answer. One of the most moving scenes for me was when one of the characters was being urged to empathize, and he suddenly lashes out as to why 'Shutu' needed to pull himself together. Giving out the common wisdom on what is an acceptable level of hardship to break down under, (or not) and what is the expected age to 'grow up'. It reminded me of another conversation I once had with a friend, as she rebuffed my urges to empathize with another struggling soul, and basically again listed out 'this xyz is what constitutes hardship. Our mutual friend is nowhere near this. ergo she needs to pull it together'. Most of the time, we are not on Shutu's side, he has broken too many societal norms, failed too many exams, missed too many phone calls, not participated adequately in communal revelry.

Probably won't be everyones cup of tea, but I would recommend it highly.

ps - as an aside, this movie already had an 'A' certificate, whats with the beeping out of words? so irritating. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Keep calm and carry on.

Its been an uphill few months. A few bad blips even. Mostly a case of one step forward, one step back. Unfortunately on occasion its two steps back. 

So now will have to catch up again on the things I have dropped after doing them for a bit. Routine, yoga, meditation, reading, limiting screen time, eliminating social media ( hah maybe it should be called anti-social media).  Reading up a bit on CBT was useful, maybe I need to find a book that explains it better and use it. 

Also need to give myself a break, forgive myself. Everything can't be up to my arbitrary standards, and specially since I am not in a position to chase or live up to those standards myself. I need to let go. k will survive in the school whose food habits are not ideal, better some random sugar and biscuits, than..  Its ok to lean and take help. Its ok if others judge, leave.. It is what it is.  

And will have to deal with the frightening thought that sometimes things don't go back to 'normal'. Sometimes when you lose a limb, its just gone. Staying strong, and positive thoughts, and just waiting for it to blow over, or willing the universe to conspire might not work. Maybe you just need to get artificial limbs. It is a relief to also stop pretending finally. Infinite gratitude for all the love and help I have got. 

Keep calm and carry on.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Fast and the furious - n - F Gary Gray

Observation:
fatf (n+1) < fatf (n)

assuming n =0, fatf (0) = 0.
when n = 1,
fatf (1) < fatf(0)
fatf < 0
fatf (2) < fatf < 0
....
fatf(8) <<<<<< 0

Sigh , I like Vin and Dwayne and Jayson and Charlize , but dumping them into the screen with a bunch of cars and no script and only cgi seems like a waste of my time.

Never again!



Friday, April 21, 2017

Logan - James Mangold

Finally got to see a movie alone at the hall recently,  after quite a while.

Liked it quite a bit, and yes I am a fan of x-men, so this isn't a neutral review!

Its a funny feeling to see your drool drool heroes grow old. Those actors you saw 25 years back looking so gorgeous and drop dead handsome, now with a slower gait, leathery skin and fraying hair.  Reminding you more of parents, who are already grandparents. A 'superhero' movie at that, which does not gloss over the last painful chapters, in an age where everything is white washed.  This one is mostly not about the shiny new powers someone is getting, its about the dulling and losing of those powers.

Its a tightrope walk of course for such movies and their directors, they can't go all out and make this only about  about those 'heroes' struggling with daily life, cooking, sleeping, disease, ablutions, death..  Of course the franchise must go on.

But much though I loved Hugh Jackmen and the x-men series, this was perhaps a fitting farewell. All things come to an end. This is how it ends.. its not pretty, but it is what it is.