Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Saying goodbye to an unforgettable year, Uday Chopra and all

Oh what a year it has been. If ever there was a time in my life when I felt the need to quote Charles Dickens (it was the best of times, it was the worst of times), then this would be it. I learnt a lot about myself. I discovered a spine I never thought I had. I made new friends. I stood up to old ones who took advantage of me and cut out those who I thought were nothing more than negative influences in my life. I was even left a little heartbroken only to find myself being stronger than ever. Every time I found myself disenchanted due to life or job, I found a shiny pink Unicorn. I opened the Pandora's Box and found hope in the form of running. Found a new perspective and embraced myself for all the crazies I embody. I also re-discovered cycling again and found myself with a new passion. So all in all, I would say I had a fantastic year and I don't want it to end. Unlike the end of 2012, I am approaching 2014 with a fresh burst of energy. That said, I am a little sad to say goodbye to a few things from 2013. So I have made a list of them.

Uday Chopra, Shahrukh Khan
Uday Chopra quit acting. So finally the Bollywood gods listened to prayers and made it happen. But as the only person in this universe who watched Neel N Nikki in the theatres, I feel attached to this lump of muscle. I am going to miss ya Chopra man but please never come back to acting again. I watched Dhoom 3 and let me tell you, you still suck.
And Shahrukh, I will always love Raj from DDLJ but there was no cameo of Rajnikanth in Chennai Express. The movie sucked balls and could have used a little Rajni to be honest with you. Am saying goodbye to your future films (unless mom insists we watch them), and we shall always have DDLJ. Boss I really need to move on. Goodbye.

My cycle AKA Dennis Bergkamp
I love my Hercules Roadeo. I even dubbed him Bergkamp (the greatest Arsenal player of all time). But now I have decided to upgrade. So starting next year barring a few months, I shall be riding the city in a shiny new bike. But before that I intend to give Dennis Bergkamp a proper send-off and a nice home where he shall be loved. In that note, I was also sad to say goodbye to my first pair of "serious" running shoes (Structure 16 Nike). We went through a lot babe but I found a better fit :P

My hair straightener
For better or for worse, I have finally come to terms with my hair. It may be a thick mass of uncontrollable mess that constantly changes between being wavy, curly and straight, but it's mine. I love it. It's part of what makes me "me". No amount of fancy haircuts is going to a solve a problem like my hair (10 days after every haircut, it becomes the same length and same mess) but my hair represents me. I too am totally uncontrollable and completely unpredictable. And I am going to embrace that part of me and buy tons of hair scrunchies for the inevitable bad hair days.

My Robin van Persie magazine
So for over two years I have held onto this interview given by Arsenal traitor and all around jackass Robin van Persie. In that interview he promises he never dreams of leaving Arsenal and he's grateful to the fans and the club for sticking with him through years and years of injuries. I held onto the magazine because I held onto my unconditional hatred for RvP. Well, am saying goodbye to both. The magazine will find its place in the dustbin and I shall stop hating RvP. I shall always think of him as the worst kind of football vermin there is, but I have better things to do in life. But yes, I will always chuckle when he goes down the drain...which he will because he is the worst kind of human person there is (I am still allowed to hate him because it's still 2013 :P ). Ugh he is the worst. This is going to be a hard thing to say goodbye to :P

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Straight but mostly human

On 11-12-13, the Supreme Court of India declared that gay sex was illegal. It pissed me off. I got angry. Angrier than I have been in a long time. I thought human rights were being violated. I thought of kids in the country who will be even more scared of coming out, so I took to social media to rage away. It's not fair, I said. Everyone gets to fall in love. I didn't get why anyone would care who someone chooses to fall in love with. But then something odd happened. This young man on a particular social media platform tells me - Why do you care? It's not like you're gay. I have seen you talk about guys all the time.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I like boys. I always have. When I was a kid, I fell in love with Shahrukh and then fell in love with Prince William and then fell in love with Prince Harry, and so on and so forth. I like flirting with boys. I like boys. I never chose it. I was just born this way. Does not make me particularly special or different. I was just born a girl who liked guys. So, why should I care if a girl gets to kiss another girl? Or if a guy gets to marry another guy? Because I am also human.

This question which was hit at me yesterday made me feel sick to my stomach. Is this why not too many people are getting angry about this issue? The usual liberal crowd on my Facebook list got mad and stayed mad but for the rest, it was rather business as usual. A few quasi liberals posted stuff on Facebook and then mumbled some lukewarm nonsense about how society should put pressure on the government and then they walked off.

So, here I am. A straight girl who thinks it's a travesty, that in my country two boys can't kiss without being hauled off to jail. Two people can't fall in love without someone calling it an abomination. How can love ever be an abomination? Love is love and family is family....whatever shape it might be. I think the Supreme Court has let down the country. I think people who crack derogatory gay jokes are fostering an inhuman environment. And I think everyone and not just the LGBT community needs to wake up and stand up for a community that is filled with human beings who are being denied the right to be themselves. I didn't choose to like boys, I just did. And that cute boy across the street also did not choose to like other boys. He was born that way. Just like me. That girl who finds companionship in another girl was also born that way, just like me. I don't get to judge them for being true to themselves.  They aren't heroes for being gay, but they are heroes for embracing who they are.

I think we need to put real criminals in jail. Rapist? Murderers? Thieves? They belong in jail. Two people in love and who want to spend their lives together? I think they belong in loving homes with understanding people surrounding them. Yes, I am straight. I can marry whomever I like because of that. I am not going to hauled into a jail anytime soon (I might for causing disruptions during football matches but that's a whole other story). But I am standing proud next to the LGBT community as a fellow human being. Gay activists don't have to be gay. They have be human. So, I promise that you (the lost soul who is reading my blog right now) can count on me to stand up for you. I shall fight on your behalf and until that day arrives when you can freely marry the one you love, I shall always be there..ready to fight. I am straight but mostly human. And this is my promise to the world.

P.S You are not alone.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The quarter life crisis

It happens to me every December. I run around rest of the year happy as a pickle and suddenly I will wake up on fine morning around December and ask myself the dreaded question - what am I doing with my life? Am I growing up? Have I changed for the better? What does life have in store for me?

Those are always scary questions but I guess this year is a bit different because I am 25. As a kid I had always figured that by 25, I would know what I wanted in life. In many ways I sit envious of people with bad lives and bad jobs. Because their lives are so bad that they know what they need to make it great someday. They have something to look forward to. But what about those with rather solid lives? What if your job does not suck? What happens when your life today is the life it has always been? A pleasant journey?

My day of questioning was today - November 28th 2013. It was just another day. I woke up early. I went to my job. I came back home. But then a nagging question kept niggling at me - "At 25 do you feel any different from when you were 15?" The truth is I really do not know. I hope I am a nicer person. I definitely do not fight as much (or at all). And I lead a very happy life. But today I have no idea where I am going next. At 15, my benchmark was simple - get through school and life will be wonderful. But now, a decade later with the rest of my life spanning endlessly in front of me, I can't help but wonder if there should be more to life than good times and good friends (although I might be the only 25 year old who complains about good times and good friends).

Am I helping people? Should I be doing more to be kind? Should I be on a crusade to save the planet? Why are kids still starving in the nation today? Should I really be spending endless hours reading useless lists on Buzzfeed? What right do I have in having a pleasant life when so many others suffer?  Will I ever feel grownup enough to not balk at responsibility? Will I ever stop being impulsive and think through my decisions in life? Will I still ask these questions when I turn 30? How about 40? Will I know the purpose of my life at 70 at least?

I don't have any of the answers yet and another year closes down on me. It's highly possible that I shall spend this time next year asking the same questions of myself and still not having the answers. Maybe the purpose of life is not about finding the right answers but about struggling through the right questions. And hopefully I shall continue asking these questions of myself throughout my life. In the meantime, I guess the goal is to live an honourable filled with good times, good friends but also purpose. Here's to 2014 and the other side of 20s. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why I think Ram Leela is a dangerous film

There is an extended scene in the bloated Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, Ram-Leela, which features a woman running. She's wearing a gorgeous lehenga that fills the frames as it sways. Her dupatta is flying behind her. The picturisation is beautiful. The music swells. It's a treat to watch. The problem? The woman is running for her life. She is being chased down by men who want to rape her. If you had walked in to watch the movie at that second, you would have easily mistaken it for a romantic number from the 80s. Therein lies my problem with this bummer.

Watching this woman running in slow motion, looking so beautiful made me sick. Someone told me that the film (yet another adaptation of Romeo and Juliet...yawn), is a celebration of women. They look pretty and they are empowered because they curse and they carry weapons. And that got me thinking about how women are portrayed in this movie.

There is the female lead, Leela. When you meet her you think she is a beautiful girl who speaks her mind. She falls in lust within seconds after meeting the man (you never understand why Deepika Padukone will lust after Ranveer Singh after watching him in an extended song-dance number where I think he was probably talking about dandruff...). She decides she will marry him knowing fully well that their families are sworn enemies (she met him a day ago, maybe she does not want to risk the lives of her clan for a guy who is constantly checking for dandruff????). They exchange godawful messages on their cellphones. And he kills her brother. You know...standard young love. I think I was fine till the duo got married. The man instantly becomes an abusive tool. She makes moon eyes at him, he pushes her away. He nearly hits her. Screams at her and forces her to stay at home. Drags her (physically) across the town and she just wants to please him by dancing for him. He then goes on to abandon her the night they get married and gets drunk and passes out. When she is taken back to her home, she refuses to eat because she is "married" and she wants to be with her "husband". Her monstrous mother cuts her ring finger off and this girl never thinks of placing a simple call to any number of women's groups that would come to her rescue. Why? Because Sanjay Leela Bhansali lives in a world where there are no decent human beings. He either hates mankind or women or his audience. Padukone's Leela might wield a revolver with ease, but she seems to actually have no gumption or gravitas. She's a woman who's been defined by the man she loves although he has shown nearly no amount of compassion for her.

Then there's this girl's mother. I am fan of Supriya Pathak. Her character however is one of the most despicable characters I have ever seen on screen. She orders the rape of another woman in the enemy clan because tit for tat is perfectly allowed in the world where Sanjay Leela Bhansali lives. She never sees repercussions. No one ever says - "hey raping women is not a way to fight a war. Even battlefields come with their own set of morals and rules...and are a woman yourself!" This monster then goes on to forcing her own daughter into marriage against her will. Somehow this makes this so-called mother a "strong female antagonist"? It's alright for a filmmaker to create such characters. But you need to give them some dimensions. And towards the end because this woman is shot and nearly killed, she finds redemption. She becomes the "good guy." She is GIVEN that redemption by the filmmaker. And yes sir, I think you are the real  monster in the film.

There is a scene in Shyam Benegal's Nishanth where Shabana Azmi's character is dragged from her home. It's painful. It's scary and bold. You get a real sense of how harrowing rape is. How claustrophobic and utterly invasive. The female characters in that movie are flawed, selfish, helpless and angry all at the same time. They are trapped by their circumstances and sometimes even their vanity. But the movie itself is a brilliant commentary on society. A woman who answers the door could be abducted and raped. It's just a fact and dealt just that way. I wonder how Benegal would have treated Ram Leela. Would he have acknowledged the the loved up duo were selfish and in lust and not really in love? I do know that he would not have added two extended rape scenes just to add plot twists. He was and will always will be a far superior filmmaker than Bhansali.

I saw two movies this past month where the women took the center stage. One was the Sandra Bullock starrer - Gravity and the other was Ram Leela.  Both films put their female protagonists through the ringer both physically and emotionally. Sandra Bullock is not pretending to be a space cowboy. She openly acknowledges that she's scared. But is she crafty and truly powerful! She's in a terrible situation lost in space and uses her mind and body to survive. She respects life enough to try and do everything in her power to live. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's characters seem to think a trigger is the true meaning of life. That a woman is instantly empowered when she lovingly fingers her gun. Gravity empowers the woman. Ram Leela exploits her. I shall watch Gravity again. I shall hope Ram Leela never exists. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dear daughter

We have not met yet and chances are we shall not be meeting for a very long time. Your mother (that would be me) has a lot of growing up to do before she gets to meet you and she plans on wasting most of that time making mistakes. Hopefully those mistakes will make me wiser for you and you can even learn from them. But until that day comes when you actually exist, I thought I could impart a few life lessons right away.

Do not take selfies in the bathroom
I have taken my fair share of selfies and honestly honey they all look terrible. You scrunch your face, turn your head, stare into the mirror while still holding that cell phone at the perfectly weird angle. And when you take a selfie in the bathroom, you need to make sure your dirty laundry is not in the picture. No one wants to see that. Also, when you pout your face, your natural smile dies away. Selfies are only alright after a new haircut and you know that the next day your hair will become the mess that it always used to be (you're my daughter, your hair will be unmanageable and thick, so deal with it). Selfies are only alright when you have no one to take your picture of you and your best friend.

Do not think Kim Kardashian is successful
I hate to even admit it but your mom (that would be me again) for a short time in her life thought that Kim Kardashian was not "entirely too bad." I regret it. Somehow I convinced myself that being rich and famous meant successful. It does not. Being rich makes you rich. Being famous means a lot of people know what your name is. Success comes from a deeper place. It's the knowledge that you have done your best in life. Success comes from fulfillment and integrity. Kim Kardashian spends her life taking selfies. She spends her life making other women feel inadequate. She is not very bright. She is the very definition of failing in life because her life is nothing more than an illusion. It's perfectly understandable to want to be beautiful and want other people to notice it too. It's perfectly understandable to care about clothes and earrings and shoes. It's also good to be self centered and selfish every once in a while. But do not be vain. Know that who you are matters more than what you look like. Being real has more value than looking plastic.

It's ok to be smart 
It's alright if you see a cute boy and think he's cute. We have all been there and done that. But it's not alright if you act dumb around a boy just to impress him! You have to have your own opinions and not just agree with everything that cute boy with the cute eyes is saying. One time a cute boy I was talking to did not know about the Beatniks. He thought they were a band. And what's worse is that I went along with him. Despite the fact that the Beatles are my favourite band and the Beatniks are some of my favourite writers and poets, I told this boy that a song called - While my guitar gently weeps - was my favourite song by the Beatniks. It was not my best moment in life. In fact I have done things like this with many people I have wanted to impress, not just boys. I think it was because I wanted to fit in better. But the truth is, the people who will really like you, will like you for the person that you are. They will like you for your opinions. And you are not being fair to someone by not being yourself. How can someone be expected to truly like you, if you never show them who you are?

Do not be afraid of people hating you
I once sat across someone who spent the entire evening making fun of gay men and I let it happen.  I didn't say anything bad myself but I never once raised my voice to tell her how very wrong I thought she was. I was afraid that that person would hate me. I was afraid that that person would make fun of me behind my back with her friends. I never thought how wrong it was of me for being a passive spectator to harmful behaviour. It's important to stand up for yourself. It is also important to stand up for others. But here is a very important piece of advice - be kind to others. I can forgive you for anything but if I ever find out that you were mean to someone out of pure spite, I shall be very disappointed in you.

Don't slam the door on your mother
This might sound a bit self serving but slamming the door on your mother solves nothing - it only breaks her heart and yours. One day you will be 14 years old and you will feel like the world does not "get you". You will think that your parents do not understand you. You will be confused by the changes happening around you, to you and to your friends and you will take that confusion out on your mother. That means there will come a day when you will look at me squarely in my eyes and tell me that you hate me. And before I could even reply, you will slam the door on my face. How do I know this for certain? Because I did it to my own mother. While that period of my teenage life was brief (and apparently it happened with nearly every girl I knew at that time), I still feel terrible about it. My mom is my best friend and the person who will be by my side no matter what. I realised this at 20. But I want you to know that if you do slam the door on my face, I will still be waiting for you on the other side. Just like my own mother did all those years ago. I will still love you, just like my own mother did. But it would be really nice if you didn't slam the door on me though.

Read a million books
When you read, you are always learning...always educating yourself. Reading keeps your mind sharp. It's like exercise for your brain. So, please read. However in the off chance you don't like books, find another passion. Anything. Twirl like nobody's business (twerking is not a passion). Dance. Run. Play sports. Write whatever comes to your mind. Take photographs. Become a football fan (Arsenal is the only club worth supporting honey). Do whatever you want but it's very important that you have legitimate hobbies and passion (writing vampire fan fiction really does not count sweetie). Hobbies lead to life experiences and you learn a lot more about yourself when you are passionate about things.

Love whomever you want
It does not matter if he is black or white or brown or anything else in between. It does not matter that he does not know the lyrics to all your favourite songs. It does not matter if he thinks books are a waste of his time. It does not matter if he thinks fart jokes are funny. If he loves you, makes you happy and he cares for you, that's all that matters. And oh, if you decide that you like girls instead of boys, that alright too. Come to me. We'll talk about it. You don't ever have to hide who you are to me. Love is love and you can't choose who you love and I will never stand in your way.

P.S I will not support any man who thinks books are a waste of his time. Sorry honey but you are not marrying him.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Running for a dream

I have a niece, Thea who is barely 3. It's a joy watching her. She smiles at birds, she laughs at nonsense and when she looks at the world, it's with eyes filled with wonder. Why am I talking about my niece? Because I think she deserves to grow up with that wonder intact. I believe that all kids in the world deserve to live in that wonderland filled with dreams. Except millions of children in our country grow up in abject poverty and without access to basic education. They don't dare look on with wonder because their reality is sad rotten pavements. No magic.

Which is why I am running for Dream a Dream foundation. I am fundraising for this organisation that equips young children and young adults with life skills necessary in life. Through camps and extra curricular activities amongst others, the organisation gives children not only wonderful life experiences but restores their ability to believe in magic. Because everyone deserves to get dirty playing football and worrying about absolutely nothing.

You can know more about Dream's programmes here - Dream a Dream.

A while ago a friend of mine took to Facebook to decry the world which he deemed apathetic. Every day it seems we wake up to bad news. Cancer, murder, rape and god knows what else populate our newspapers. Politicians go out of their way to prove to us that they really do not care about our well being. So where does that leave us? We need to fend for ourselves. The best way to make the world a better place is to make a wonderful place for our children. We can't complain about the world and its problems. We need to step up our game and make sure we are part of the solution.

What I am doing is probably not going to help the world in the grand scheme of things. It may not even really help India. But I am hoping it helps at least one child. And that would change my own world. I can go to my niece with my head held high and tell her that maybe...just maybe the world is as magical and wonderful place as she thinks it is.

Which is where you guys come in. I can't do this alone. I need help. I need support. And I need the money. My goal is to raise at least Rs 30,000 although I am hoping to bring it to Rs 50,000. I have donated Rs 10,000 from my own pockets but it's not nearly enough. I need your empathy. I need you to share this blog with as many people as you can. I need you to donate.

In return I offer my thanks. I shall be offering some incentives (like my goofy services) in the coming months and sharing my own journey with these kids. Just follow the link to this page My dream. Click on that donate button. Donate how much ever you can. There are kids who need this money desperately and you will make my own dreams come true. And I promise you if you do this, the force will be always with you.

(I am posting the link once again because I am paranoid like that - CLICK THIS LINK

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

You call me what?

I want to talk about something that happened a couple of years ago. I was unhappy at my then job and was eating away my feelings. Long story short - I had put on weight. It really does not matter, right? I knew that in theory except when I had gone out with friends one day for a movie, one of my friends (a guy) turned to me and told me in the most judgmental tone - "the way you look, you can't expect to even think you will end up with some good looking guy." Now I have spent years talking about how looks do not matter but that one comment by someone who was considered to be my friend? It was only a throwaway incident but it stung. Badly. When I think back to that day, I still cringe.

When I look back I realise that despite the fact I thought of myself as someone who had great self esteem, I never stood a chance against that insult. You see all my life I had been led to believe that I was not enough. Even though I was raised by parents who at every step of the told me that I was perfect, I just had to look around at the world to realise how that wasn't the case. The Fair and Lovely products told me I had to use whitening products. That magazine cover told me that I had to lose my Freshman 15 in 15 days...or else. That makeup ad told me my skin was not great. And those movies that told me that the plain tomboyish Jane had to undergo a makeover before she got the guy. The images thrown at me made me feel insecure despite myself. And when you couple that with the fact I was still oh so young, I was easily bullied into believing that no guy will ever look at me because of the way I look.

Now why am I talking about something very very personal to me? Because of this picture.

When I first saw it, I saw a striking looking fit woman who was coming out of the water. However the caption that went along with the picture said one line - the cow went to the water. Ouch. Now I know people will tell me this woman is an actress and that when she chose to come into the limelight, she knew that it came along with online bullies. But I keep thinking about the young girls who see this picture. The next time they have to go swimming, this picture would vividly come to their minds. Of course now thanks to the internet, there are several ways to make a person feel bullied. And it's worse for girls. They have to constantly live up to unrealistic expectations when the men pretty much get away with murder.

WHY? I know that it's important to be fit. It's important to eat healthy food and exercise because that makes you healthy. It is not however okay to call a woman a cow! It's not okay to make a living out of putting others down. I realise that I am being far too sensitive about a stupid meme but I just have to go on Twitter or Tumblr to watch young teenage girls who live in a constant state of self loathing. And what's worse is that they are only byproducts of what society made them. What the media made them. I know we don't live in a perfect world but one day I hope we live in a world where people don't get satisfaction from putting someone else down.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dear Miley's Tongue...I feel for you

I do not know Miley Cyrus personally. She's not my friend. She's not my daughter. And she's not even the kind of musician I listen to. But unless you have been living under the rock the last couple of months, chances are you have been exposed to her tongue. She whips it out for her concerts, for her videos, her photo-shoots and am pretty sure she pulls it out when nature calls (gross but I'm convinced this happens). And now I have come to worry about this young woman's tongue and its well being more than the welfare of people I personally know.

I don't know about the rest of the world but I generally keep my tongue firmly within the confines of my mouth. It's there for a reason, I don't like displacing it. But Miley's tongue? Even if it's not particularly shy, am sure it also feels the need to rest for a bit once in a while. It must be tired from all those exercises the girl puts it through. And what about tongue hygiene? By now the tongue has been exposed to every different kind of weather and places. Not to mention it has probably been accumulating so much dust from going out so much. Does Miley make sure the tongue is well hydrated and has enough nutrition to survive what she puts it through? Has she thought about getting a tongue cleaner and a lotion to make sure her tongue does not get sun tan? What if it gets sunburnt? Has this child even thought about the trauma her tongue experienced when she wagged it in front of the whole world at the Video Music Awards? What if her tongue has PTSD from that torture?

Here's the most important question I often ponder over - does her tongue even want to be famous or has Miley coerced it to do her bidding? I feel terrible for kids whose parents force them to perform in front of complete strangers because they think "he's so talented when it comes to reciting every single nursery rhyme in existence". And I feel the same dread watching Miley's tongue. The tongue probably just wants to go away on an exile from humanity and never return but she's got it held hostage. So, I dedicate this blog to Ms Cyrus' tongue and I hope it knows where ever it is, I am praying for its safety.

And finally here's a message for Ms Cyrus herself - honey, I don't care how many different ways you twerk or how many cannon balls you swing on naked, but take care of your tongue. It's done nothing wrong in life. Stop punishing it young lady. And yes, will it kill you to put some clothes back on? 

Friday, September 20, 2013

I think this girl needs our help

It's a weird world we live in. I have not really visited any other planet apart from Earth but on any given day I think it's the most beautiful planet to call home. And I have great hope for humanity as well. I know I have not been around for too long...but I think being part of the human race is just spiffy. You can dance (I dance badly), you can sing (I cannot sign) and you can draw beautiful pictures (I have trouble drawing a straight line). Anyway, even though I am not quite as evolved as I would like to be, I would still say I am quite proud to be part of the human race. Which brings me to this morning when a member of the male species threw an object aimed at my face.

An auto driver in Bangalore got so angry with me that he grabbed my phone from my hand and threw it at my face. An auto driver. Male. Part of the human species. I hailed an auto to get to work in the morning and his meter was absolutely off its rocker. It was at least 30 to 40 rupees more than it should be. I was quiet. I had already told him that the meter fare to my work place costs Rs 133 because I wanted to avoid fighting with anyone early in the morning. Of course it also does not help that I actually do not like fighting and I am not good at it. We got to my office in Indiranagar and the meter read Rs 176. Absolutely insane. I have never seen a faster meter my entire life. Still, seeing as I was in a good mood (am off with friends for a mini vacay during the weekend), I decided to just tell him that his meter was too much and that he should get it checked. All hell broke loose.

The man starts yelling at me about how his meter is just fine and how I should pay him whatever it read. Then he yelled at me about the terrible traffic which confused me because it's not like I am the cause of the traffic in Bangalore. I was rummaging through my bag for money, he screams some more and that's when I told him that I would only pay him what I usually pay and he should stop yelling at me. Suffice to say he got angrier. So much so that a woman who was standing nearby came quietly from behind and stood along with me. He started throwing insults at me and I was losing my patience but I was still too scared to yell back or do anything else. That's when I figured I would pick up my phone and take a photograph of his licence plate. In the past, this trick has scared a ton of auto guys, who then proceed to go away. This man on the other hand got so incredibly angry at the sight of my phone, that he grabbed my hand, yanked my phone off of me and hurled my phone to my face. Now my hand eye coordination is terrible but looks like I can duck quite well, so I ducked away from the phone. Except now my brand new phone has flown across the road, hit a nearby gate and plonked itself inside a ditch. That's when the quiet woman standing beside me looks around the street, which also has two men on bikes standing nearby talking to each, and loudly proclaims - this girl needs our help. You want to know what those two men did? Nothing. They just continued talking to each other like they heard nothing.

The slap
When I used to be in school I used to get into a fair bit of trouble over fighting but since then I have become what some people would call a chicken. I don't fight. I don't like it. I think it's messy and I always end up backing down. I always end up apologising even if it's not my fault. Which is why I still can't believe what I did next. When I saw my phone flying towards me and then towards the ditch, something snapped. How does someone get to do that to anyone??? I got into his auto (the backseat) and I slapped him across his face. I had silenced both of us by my action. He could not believe that this tiny girl in front of him (he was HUGE) had actually slapped him and I could not believe that my hands had flown across the air and made contact with his cheeks.

The police call
Once this guy had mishandled me I knew I had no other choice but to call the cops (even though I did not want to). So, I did. Told the operator where I was. By then the auto guy was shocked at the state of events. I don't think he ever thought me capable to calling the cops, but then I don't think he thought me capable to striking him either. The people from my office came down and surrounded the auto. We were a quiet bunch. He apologised. He said he was sorry. He asked me to call off the cops. He begged me and called me baby at least a million times. I didn't yell at him. I politely told him that he could apologise to the cops. At first he looked like he would hit me but I looked at him back squarely in the eyes and told him no man has the right to strike a woman. In fact no human has a right to go in for an unprovoked attack. What he did was wrong. The cops came ten minutes later. He tried to spin the story about how I had attacked him. Thankfully, the quiet woman (Debra) came forward and explained everything. She had even fished my phone out. It was damaged but like me it was still chugging along. The cops immediately sprung into action. I went back into my office. I may have had an eventful and exhausting morning but a girl's still got to work. The control room called me 15 minutes later to make sure I was fine.

Stop blaming the woman
There was a woman who at every point tried to stop me from calling the cops and asked me to let him go. Why? Because he is poor, she said. The man who was talking into a cellphone all morning is obviously so poor that he has every right to strike at a girl. You are told right from the beginning not to make an issue. Do not call the cops. Let him go, he's made a mistake. At what point do we get to defend ourselves and not be blamed for it? I took a photograph of his nameplate and I posted it on my Facebook wall because if you can avoid this particular specimen, you should. I am scared. I am petrified and for at least the next couple of weeks, I will be looking over my shoulder but I will also know I did the right thing. The next time he gets angry and wants to lash out, this man will think twice. He will not do this to another girl...or child or man or woman. I think the ordeal of the morning was worth it for only that reason.

Back to the universe
This brings me back to humanity and earth. Sure the two guys in their bikes looked like they couldn't be bothered and yes it's never fun when someone forcefully throws a phone at you but the woman never left my side. The lesson I learnt today is humanity is darn amazing and that you find kindness in the most unlikely places. The good humans make life pretty swell. So, I am not going to focus on the auto driver. I am not going to focus on the guys who did not come to my rescue or the woman who tried to dissuade me and sided instead with the man who threw something at me. My focus is on that one woman. My hero. The woman who stared at the street and proclaimed - 'I think this girl needs our help'. When no one showed up, she stayed anyway. She was the epitome of humanity. Who never left my side. I think she alone makes this planet at least one of the top 3 planets to call home and the human species one of the better species to be associated with.

P.S My phone wants you guys to know that it's doing okay now too. It stopped working for a while but has since decided that it will also not be bullied by auto drivers, gates or ditches. I think my phone was quite brave.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Eppur si muove

If someone was to ask me what phrase in the whole world nay universe, I love the most, I would turn around and quietly mumble 'Eppur si muove'. Legend has it when Galileo was asked to recant his proposition that it was actually Earth that revolved around the Sun, this great scientist boldly went - "eppur si muove" which loosely translates to - "And yet it moves."

Of course many historians have since debunked this theory entirely saying there is no actual evidence that Galileo, who was facing death at that point would risk his own life for his beliefs but the phrase has long struck an incredibly romantic notion in my head - that to have convictions is more important than going with flow.

Which of course is a huge problem for someone like me because I really like to be liked. More than anything in the world, I want to go unnoticed and be non-controversial...which is hard because I have always stuck out like a sore thumb ever since I was in school. I was not like most of my classmates. I didn't get their jokes, I didn't watch their movies and I was either fighting, lying or reading books under the table. I was also extremely outspoken which never helped my case with either teachers or the students. In short - I was really unpopular. While I had my friends (thankfully every school has more than one misfit), I still felt out of sorts and never able to be what I saw around me. Never really part of the gang. And if you want to be liked, you need to be part of the gang.

The reason I have been thinking about my school days and my own set of values is because recently I got into a rather nasty online fight with some former classmates. And it would have been entirely avoided had it not been for one tiny flaw in my own being - my conscience would not let it. I don't want to make this blog into an anti-Modi rant but suffice to say that I would not vote someone like him into any kind of office with power in my country because it will go against my own set of morals. He was there when the Gujarat riots took place. He was responsible for his people, their safety and as child, woman and man were slaughtered in what could only be comparable to a horror movie, I never thought I would see the day the man could possibly be voted into the highest office in my country. I find it shameful. But while I would never tell someone not to vote for someone specific, I also will not back out from voicing my own opinion.

And I did just that on my Facebook wall the day BJP announced that Modi would become their PM candidate. My heart sank and yet I only chose to make light of the situation and let it go. I didn't want to start a fight with anyone. If someone fought with me, it meant they didn't like me anymore and that would be horrible, at least in my own head. However to my greatest misfortune, the light tone of my status message quickly morphed into a nasty fight. The person who sat in the same classroom as me for years while growing up told me that once Modi became the PM, I would be tried for treason. I thought it was a joke. Surely someone who is educated would know that criticism was a central part of democracy and let him know just that. However it became more and more clear that no matter what I said, this person would not back down from his own views and his friends quickly joined in the pursuit. At this point to my own dismay (I blame lack of sleep and loads of irritation for what happened next), I stooped down to his level and became nasty myself for even though I begged him to leave the discussion, he would not.

Here's the thing that pissed me off the most about the discussion - it was never about the facts. He asked me if I was voting for the Italian and that made me very angry. Anyone who has chosen to be a citizen of India, gets to be called a citizen of India no matter where she was born and should enjoy the same rights as the rest of us. If we are not accepting of that, aren't we all racists ourselves? And then it became about how I am part of paid media. Another supposition without any facts. I write for a technology portal and I am too unimportant a person to be paid off to being a mouth piece for any party in the country. And by accusing me of selling my integrity for money, you reduce me to lowest strata of human existence and for me, my integrity is everything. If not anything, I am honest. I am not a cheap whore (in fact I believe prostitutes have more integrity than men and women who sell their values for instant gratification of money). His friends (and my former classmates I might add), joined it. It was a gang vs one and all I wanted to do was hide under the rock and cry for a while.

Which brings me back to Galileo. Whether he said it or not, he seems to have screwed me over. When someone asks me an opinion, I can't help myself, I have to seek out an answer within myself and reply. I can't just shrug and walk away. It's horrible but as much as I want to forget about Narendra Modi and be accepted by my peers, I know I can't. I have to say that he must at least acknowledge the riots. He must acknowledge what happened that time is a terrible affront to humanity. He must acknowledge he failed his people at that time. The thing is while there are many "leaders" in the country who were present for many riots and terrible acts that have taken place in this nation, none of them is standing up to become the nation's next prime minister. None of them calls themselves incorruptible.

The people who suffered and died? They are also my country men are they not? They are also human beings who deserve justice do they not? Who will stand up for them and their forgotten rights to human decency if not those who listen to their hearts? What face do I show the future generation when I tell them that I voted a man in simply because I wanted to become rich? What do I tell them when they ask me if human life is not as important as growth of industry?

Again with the Galileo. The world wants neat answers. They want solutions wrapped in a bow. Life for all its glory is unfortunately terribly messy. It's gross and ugly but beautiful at the same time. I struggle to find answers every day. I wrestle with the idea of what's right and wrong. And I know that at 25, I am more likely to be wrong than right. But I also know that if I live to be 50, I want to look back with some amount of pride. And that does not come with money. It comes with following Galileo into the gallows. So, while I want nothing more than to talk about Miley Cyrus twerking or Taylor Swift's latest song, I however will not stay quiet when someone talks about this man with praise.

I will acknowledge to them that while the industry in the state has grown, the human index has remained poor. Child malnutrition flourishes. Unemployment remains a huge problem within the state and the poor have remained poor. After which I would quietly point them to data and facts I have found during my research including Poverty amid prosperityGujarat’s Social Progress Yet To Match Economic Success, Mirage of development and Vibrant Gujarat: More Myth than Fact to make my case. I will be thrashed. I will be called names. I will be made fun of. There will be people who will hate me at the end of it. All of this makes me terribly sad to even think about. I want to be liked. Unfortunately I have Galileo sitting on my shoulder asking me to open my mouth and laud people like Amartya Sen and Amitavh Gosh (After Amartya Sen, author Amitav Ghosh says his vote won't go to Modi) and resign myself to the fact that my opinion unfortunately is not the popular opinion.

I remember reading Henry David Thoreau several years ago and being entranced by his words on civil disobedience. He said, "Can there not be a gov­ern­ment in which ma­jor­it­ies do not vir­tu­ally de­cide right and wrong, but con­science? — in which ma­jor­it­ies de­cide only those ques­tions to which the rule of ex­pe­di­ency is ap­pli­ca­ble? Must the cit­i­zen ever for a mo­ment, or in the least de­gree, re­sign his con­science to the leg­is­la­tor? Why has ev­ery man a con­science, then?".

I may not be right but I know I must follow my conscience. I also know the only way I can do that is by educating myself and arming myself with numbers which I do every day. Unfortunately none of that will help. Experience so far has taught me that people will only lash out at you. There will no happy ending at the end of this. No one will sit across fire and sing Kumbaya. Whatever happens in the next few years will divide the nation and its people and it breaks my heart. It will also lead to a lot more people hating me. But somewhere I hope the spirit of Galileo smiles and says - Eppur Si Muove...and yet it moves... 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My answer to the marriage question

I read a very interesting blog today. A friend of mine sent me this link via Twitter titled 26, UNMARRIED, AND CHILDLESS. Written by Amanda Bast, who is only a year older than me, she talks about how people around her have already started pressuring her to get a good job, get married and have kids as soon as possible. It was raw and honest and I liked what she wrote but she does not necessarily reflect how I feel.

I am 25, not married and yes childless. And yes, as a girl from a Tambrahm family conversations at most weddings, dinners and even random encounters on the street turn inevitably to my marital status. In fact, it was one of the questions thrown at me in an interview. These questions make me uncomfortable but not for the reasons you think. I am not in anyway yearning to marry Prince Charming and have little unicorn babies and paint rainbows. But I am at loss for words as to how to respond correctly to those questions. I feel uncomfortable not because I am behind the proverbial race but simply because I have no idea what the future holds. But I know there is a disconnect. After all every other day, yet another friend decorates their Facebook wall with engagement/wedding photographs and I put up photographs of me running in desolate parts of the country or my favourite football players.

But that does not mean that I am in anyway jealous or envious of those getting married. In fact truth be told, I love it when someone puts up photographs of their weddings and engagements and I peruse it with glee. I love the colours, the smiles, the happiness writ on their faces and hopefully love too. I do not in any way begrudge them. What I do hate is when someone comes up to me and asks me when I plan on taking the plunge. After all the clock is ticking away. So instead of telling every person individually that my sad existence is anything but sad, I decided to pen down my reply through this blog. This is my answer to everyone who has this image of single girls sitting at home depressed and eating chocolates and crying about not having a man in their lives (thanks a lot Bridget Jones!).

Hi sir/madame. It's very nice to meet you. I honestly do not know when I am getting married. I am not against marriages or weddings but I am simply not married yet. My life is full and filled with laughter and friendship. I have a good job and I am good at it. It gives me freedom to buy unnecessary things in life. Just the other day I bought rather expensive earphones for no reason. I have great friends. Yes, we fight sometimes but at the end of the day we are there for each other. I don't know how these friendships will hold in the future but for now they are solid. Touch wood. I have a wonderful if somewhat unorthodox relationship with my parents. They are more my friends than my authority figures. They advice me, they cajole me but they also let me make my own choices. I have a neurotic sister who worries about everything that I do. Yes, it's highly annoying but it's a blessing I am grateful for. I have a niece I am mad about. She is my favourite person in the whole world and my best friend. Yes, my best friend is a two year old who still poops her pants. Deal with it.

My life is filled with travel and even adventure. I love trekking. I have gone on midnight treks and have slept under the stars. You appreciate your existence more when you have stars for company. I recently took up running seriously. I used to run a long time ago but somewhere along the line, the pressure of keeping up with my peers took over exploring my own passions. I have found it again. I spend money travelling to various cities and running in races there. I am no more than a novice but someday soon I will scale up to a full marathon. I can talk about running in my sleep because it has given me so much more than I could ever imagine. I cycle. Not much but I have re-introduced that childhood hobby into my life and I am liking it more and more every day. I obsess over movies, music and books and I have a strong opinion about nearly everything in life including politics. I listen to Taylor Swift. There. I said it. Not all her songs but some of them are fun dammit! I watch movies with my friends, my parents and the guy at our local theatre knows me and my mom by our names. We are that unabashedly frequent. I do not diet. If there is a pizza, I am eating it. Screw you if you tell me about the fattening cheese and carb content. That pizza will be eaten by me. 

I do not know if I am religious but I am spiritual and I believe that nature should be respected and worshiped. I am not lonely. I do not know if I am getting married but when I do, it will not complete me. That other person will not be the puzzle missing in my life. He would be my companion. Hopefully my friend and someone who understands or at least tolerates it when I have to wake up at 4.45am in the morning to go for a run. He will not be my savior and nor will I save or complete him in any way. I am already complete. I do not eat chocolates when I am depressed and I love football more than I could possibly ever love a romantic comedy. Although I do like good romantic comedies as long as they have solid plots and do not star Reese Witherspoon or Katherine Heigl. And there is a good chance that I would one day end up being a 70 year old grandmother talking about Arsenal football club and beating young kids in video games on Playstation 1000. 

In other words I am blessed and am a happy individual with a lot going in my life.  I wear many hats including that of a daughter, sister, friend, Gooner and a runner. And that's enough for me right now. So, next time you meet me ask me about my life. Ask me about my interests, about my travels, about my adventures or if you want to be tortured with some rather passionate yet droll statistics, ask me about my football team. I will be more than happy to oblige you. But if you ask me about marriage, all you will get from me is a shrug. Honestly I don't feel like I am losing any race against my married peers. I am just running at my own speed. And there is no schedule or finish line here. The journey is what matters the most. I am a runner. I know this much.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Arsenal lost and my heart broke

It's very hard to explain the relationship between a football club and its fans (although there have been some excellent blogs, articles and even books written on the subject), but unless you are a fan, you will not understand the pain, the sweat and tears that goes along with supporting a team with all your heart.

My relationship with football and Arsenal began a long time ago and with every year it gets strengthened even through the bad times. It's always the same, during the season, my weekends are ruled by football matches and Arsenal games, during mid-week it's usually champions league games and rest of the time goes towards talking about the team. That first game of the season is always one filled with excitement -your boys are back home where they belong...where you belong.

But it's also a cause for real heart break. People who are non-fans will never understand why someone will spend their weekend in total depression, pouting, angry and ready to snap at anyone unless and until they come to feel as passionately about something as football fans do about their teams. Arsenal lost on Saturday and it's Monday right now and my mood is no better. I refused to get out of my bed on Sunday (despite pleas from both friends and family) and spent the day eating unhealthy food non-stop and watching old matches on Youtube. I must have spent hours watching players score goal after goal on their heyday.

Monday happened much too soon and with very little sleep and nearly no inclination to work, I showed up at work but ready only to talk about Arsenal. What were we going to do? Our team has lost its core players to injury, we have a tough Champions League game coming on Wednesday and we got no one. Sure it does not matter that my educated (and sometimes logical) brain keeps telling me that my own personal victories and defeats have nothing to do with the team. It's just a game.... But unfortunately how I feel is utterly different. I am embarrassed for the way we played (even though I had nothing to do with the 11 players who showed up to put up a fight against Aston Villa). I am upset we didn't win. I am angry that we have not signed any new players. It's my own personal defeat even though I have have no say in how the season pans out.

So, today in the throes of depression, I keep thinking back to those early days years ago when I became a fan. To be honest sometimes (like today) I wish I could go back in time and change my own history by not getting emotionally invested in a game and the club. After all, I meet a ton of people every day (my own father included), who watch football matches and have fun simply catching the games. They have no affiliations or minor ones if that and don't really care who wins or loses at the end of the day. They laugh during matches, they answer phones calls and they even switch channels in between to watch something else. Healthy people, oh how I hate them all and wish I could be one of them. I don't remember the last time I genuinely just sat down and watched a game in the EPL dispassionately and enjoyed it for what it was. I am always worried about how it affects Arsenal. I am tense and anxious and definitely will not even move a muscle during the game, let alone do anything as stupid as answer a phone call from either friends or family.

But then it does not change anything. Logically I know the healthy route but when it comes to football, it's my heart that dictates the rules. My relationship with Arsenal is one of the longest ones I have had with anyone or anything. Even though I am well aware that Arsenal is just a team, for me, it's like my best friend and my family. Arsenal is part of my life for better or for worse. It's part of who I am. I am Aishwarya. I am daughter, aunt and sister. I am a runner. I am a reporter. I am also a Gooner. It's my identity.

So, I am going to sit here and mope all day today and be decidedly upset. I am going to whine about how we have no chances of even finishing top four in the league unless Wenger signs some quality players. I am going to bite my nails incessantly as we approach the September 2nd deadline after which we have no chances of signing anyone. This has been me for years and this will be me in the future too. When I say - Arsenal till I die - it's my reality for today. Until that day arrives when I simply no longer care about what happens at the Emirates stadium and I am just a casual bystander to a sport I once loved, this is going to be me. I am Aishwarya. I am a Gooner and if it breaks my heart, so be it. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Breaking up with Mr Khan

I blame myself for going to the movie. It's not like one expects quality film making from Rohit Shetty. So, I have no right to have gone to the movie with no expectations (I saw the trailer) and then sit here and bitch about one of the thinnest plots Bollywood cinema has ever seen. That's okay. I deserve this movie and by being part of the brigade that helped the movie cross the Rs 100 crore mark, I have also unwittingly become a catalyst for more such movies to be made. I have made Shah Rukh Khan richer and the country a little dumber. I don't get to whine. But then as I watched the climax of the movie, I wanted to kick every single male character in the movie swiftly in the nuts over and over and over again.

Why you ask? Well, let me take a minute and paint the climax if you will let me (*and yes, spoiler alert...yawn*). The hero (who constantly and annoyingly keeps harping on and on about the power of the 'common man'), has to fight the burly villain, while the heroine watches haplessly as her father holds her hand stopping her from going to the rescue of her one true love (a man she met days ago). Yup. In the last minutes of the movie, the girl is no more than a mute spectator, the damsel in distress and a total Kajol from the last scenes of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (instead of calling him babuji, the heroine calls her dad, appa and begs him to let her go but never really puts up a fight). But the hero, played by Mr Khan gets to fight and beat up big burly men in a bid to prove his own manhood. Can you please kill me now?

One might wonder how in a movie filled with cliched tropes and failings, why I chose to be angry at the one stereotype that is unlikely to ever go out of fashion in Bollywood. It's because I was absolutely turned off by how helpless and victimised the girl looked in that scene and even if it preceded the so-called happy ending (come on you knew it was going to be a happy ending!), I was uncomfortable by how tied down the woman's hands were. Then as if she was a commodity, once the hero wins his battle, her father literally hands over the girl to the new alpha dog in the community. What's worse? The girl complies with it all these proceedings only too happily. In fact, Deepika Padukone exists in the film only to wear fabulous sarees that my mom and I salivated over and screw up BOTH Tamil and Hindi at the same time. For someone who is supposed to be a "village belle", her Tamil is so atrocious that any Tamilian would wonder what language she was truly speaking in. And she exists to set feminism back to the dark ages (or as I call it - 80s Bollywood cinema). In other words, the woman is total baukwas.

When I went to Chennai Express with my parents, I knew I was going to come out of a movie once again let down by Shah Rukh Khan but I came out livid and disappointed. Khan must have perpetually gotten a - 'can do better' - remark from his teachers back in school because that's exactly what he has been told since then with his career. When you watch Swades or Chak De or even Baazigar, you immediately forgive him for Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and every other bad film he has made along the same vein. But at some point you have say enough is enough and beg him to stop making films that exist only to help you drop more IQ points. Sure, Salman Khan makes bad movies too (and yes they are truly bad movies) but you don't expect anything else from him but when you watch Darr, you are reminded of someone who once used to be fearless with his roles. And now with Ra.One and Chennai Express, he has become an unfortunate but strangely willing punchline.Yes, he has always overacted but he has also displayed flashes of brilliance (Paheli was quite good). You were convinced that maybe just maybe he can do better. But now I can officially say that he has failed in his career. He may be laughing all the way to the bank but he no longer can boast of any kind of credibility to ever call himself an actor. He may not be a terrorist (although he does terrorise us with his bad movies) but he is definitely not a thespian.

So, here I am, a long term Shah Rukh Khan fan, (who at one point had his poster up on her bedroom wall), writing a Dear John break up letter to the very man she loved a long time ago. I can't take it anymore. I am tired of making excuses for him ("come on guys, he was so endearing in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa!") and have also officially fallen out of love with Mr Raj from DDLJ (I was 8 when I watched that movie and hence deserve to be cut some slack for falling one hundred per cent in love with that film). In a way Chennai Express is a blessing in disguise seeing as it has finally freed me. You see despite everything, I still continued to root for him even after watching him mix curd and spaghetti in Ra. One (because let's face it, every tambrahm mixes curd and Italian delicacies and then eats that concoction with their bare hands because we are that dumb). All it took for me for me to severe all ties from this "superstar" was to watch him in a lungi and gyrate alongside Padukone in a misguided tribute to the fabulous Rajnikanth. No, I am no longer his fan. Yes, I think he is a total sellout. And most importantly it has be iterated over and over again that he is no feminist as he purports himself to be (everyone by now knows about the Tata Tea advertisement). You see if he really thought men and women were created equal, he would not have had "his girl" passed around from man to man as though she was property. If he really believed in the power of his common man, his films would not show the common woman act stupidly (Jab Tak Hain Jaan!) or powerlessly. Screw you Shah Rukh. Goodbye. And just so you's not me, this is all you babe.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What I know to be true

When I was a child, I knew what I wanted. I knew I loved love horror movies. I knew I wanted to become a writer even though I had no idea what I would write about. I knew I wanted to be Enid Blyton and be a part of someone's life the way she was part of mine. I knew I wanted to turn into a bookworm and drink in as many books as possible. I wanted to marry Prince William.

As I grew up I held onto what I knew about myself and I held to be true. I decided that I didn't like the outdoors and any world I needed to explore was right there in a wonderful book written by RK Narayan or Tolkien. Well, I wasn't wrong. I lived in more worlds than anyone could imagine and thought myself to be very happy. But then 2012 happened to me.

A person I thought was my friend tore me down, shredded me and walked away and I will forever be grateful to her because it was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life. Because instead of judging people for their life choices (as she often encouraged me to do and I happily complied), I now had the opportunity to make my own stupid decisions without the fear of being called stupid.  I found new people in my life and I lost people in my life. Prince William got married and announced to the world that he was having a kid. Many things I thought were absolute truths disproved themselves and showed me their backs and walked away.

Suddenly it was the day the world was supposed to end and it didn't. The world did not end. No hammer from the sky emerged to dissolve us all into oblivion. And I realised that I had somehow turned 25; something I swore as a child I would never let happen, but then as a kid I also did not know that one generally does not win the race against time.

So, I decided to throw everything out of the window and just be. I took up trekking and slept under the stars alongside a bunch of strangers and yet I had never felt more safe knowing that I was truly a part of the universe, even if it was the most insignificant part of it. I began to run and realised that my body can do more than just hold a book and that it can literally take me places and allow me to explore the world from a whole new perspective. I went on a vacation for the first time in years. I wore a dress.

Suddenly I was living even though I had no clue how to do it in the "right way" anymore. Books became more meaningful somehow in ways I can't yet comprehend, perhaps because I had my own experiences to compare. And I have decided I will figure out who I am as I go along. One day I can be a philosopher and one day a teacher. I can quit everything and travel for months on end or get married and have 10 children. I like the confusion and the lack of direction because that means I am discovering new paths. And I have also decided that I never had any right (even by proxy) to judge anyone in life. People make mistakes but that only proves they are human. I make mistakes.

I know we live in a world where people bomb one another, kill one another and hurt one another. Where they pave paradise and put up parking lots. But that does not mean I will lose hope. I know with every day I become older but not quite wiser but I also know that at any given moment adorable puppies are being born and you can never be cynical in a world that has puppies. I also have made new truths along the way. And here are few that I think are true, at least for now -

  • I have no idea what's going to happen tomorrow so I refuse to worry about it today. Nothing is ever as good or bad you might think it is going to be, so there is only disappointment waiting for those with expectations. 
  • Music makes life better. 
  • Any MP3 player can be as good as an Ipod but most are not as expensive and hence can be a practical choices for someone who is very close to being broke and desperately wants music in her life. 
  • Losing an ATM card is really the best thing to happen to someone as you inadvertently learn to live on a budget. 
  • Having a lot of money does not necessarily make you happy. 
  • Horror movies are better watched with friends.
  • Mom may not always know the best but she shows up when it's important.
  • You can learn everything you need to learn about life by watching your two year old niece kick a football for the first time in her life because in those moments you see a brand new human being learn how to fall and get up and try again. It's inspiring. 
  • Youtube can lead to insomnia.
  • A good run may not solve all your problems but you will feel better at the end of it.
  • Never hold onto relationships that make you feel bad about yourself.
  • Being cynical may be "cool" but being open and raw means you are courageous. 
  • Walking through life with your heart in your hands is naive and stupid but infinitely better than walking around refusing to let anyone in. 
  • Friends are worth getting your heart broken over.
  • Curd rice is refreshing and healthy. 
  • A good book can change your world.
  • Unicorns exist.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: Gilian Flynn: Dark Places

I was never going to buy this book. Sure I was interested when I read its reviews when the book but when it came down to it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to spend a lot of money on an author I was not quite sure about as yet.

Thank god I read this book. I picked it up at the San Francisco airport during a recent vacation when I realised that I was facing two 10 hour flight journeys on the way back home and just was not feeling sleepy enough. This was just some book that was displayed prominently at some random bookstore in the airport but what happened was something quite magical - I was hooked within three pages.

The book introduces us to the ever unreliable :Libby Day, a protagonist you simply cannot trust. As a child she testified against her own brother as having killed her mother and her sisters and is now living life as a drifter. One day she is contacted by a group obsessed with solving murder mysteries and her already pathetic life is turned upside down.

What I loved about the book was its lucid voice. Right from the beginning you learn to empathise with Libby's life and her setbacks.But she is no saint and you are wholly aware of it. You are also point of view chapters from both her mother and brother dating back to the 80s when the ill-fated murder took place.

The Days are a filthy family. They are filthy people. It's not just a matter of hygiene. They simply are the kind of people one would generally avoid interacting with. The kids are always dirty and up to no good and the mother is a sad stretched woman who fantasises about dying because she simply can't take it anymore. What more, she is not a very good mother to begin with. And all that is reflected beautifully pages after pages in this gem of a book that unfolds like a thriller.

The book at once works as a commentary on poverty and also a taut murder mystery where nothing is as it seems and where everyone has a hidden agenda and there is no decent human being and everyone lies. At the heart of it all is a damn good story and a great plot that never loses its pace. At one point you are almost peeking at the next page to see what's in store for you. And what makes it truly wonderful is that you almost feel like you are one of the Days by middle of the book. You feel dirty.

I was not entirely convinced by the ending but the ride was so enjoyable that I can't complain. I loved reading this book and definitely would recommend it to not only fans of thrillers but also ones who love a good story.

It's out of stock in Flipkart but if you can get your hands on this book, don't miss the chance!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The truth about my prayer

I am not hip or cool or whatever it is kids call it these days.
I am a child. A woman. A girl. A human.
And while I often wonder if there is a god out there who has time to watch over 6 billion people and billions more animals and plants,
on one measly planet in one measly solar system in one massive universe.
I can't help it. I pray. 

I pray because I am alive. 
In a universe where there could be millions of possibilities, there is only one me.
Now isn't that a miracle by itself? 
I am a miracle, I say...a pulsating, messy miracle! I pray.

I am always afraid.
Of that boy looking at me.
Of clowns, of heights, of aeroplanes, of failing...of succeeding.
But I am afraid. Isn't that just great? 
My fear is proof that I existed.
So I pray. 

I think of that dark night huddled under the stars, watching the millions of stars sparkling over me.
It was so bloody beautiful that I never slept. I watched the sun rise and start putting out those little lights one by one.
And yet the next day, I knew those stars would come out to once again play.
How lucky am I to witness that? How can I not pray? 

I think of the people who have hurt me.
Ones that I spent many days wishing them...well I wished terrible things upon them.
But don't judge me harshly, for I am only human. 
And even though I have been hurt by many a man and woman, I still go and happily place my heart in the hands of yet another one, doomed to perhaps make the same mistakes.
Call me naive but that's ok. 
It gives me reason to pray.

I think of that day in my childhood past when I should have died.
Confronted by a monster both real and at once imaginary, my feet carried me to safety.
My heart carried those scars but they too will heal one day. 
I pray. 

It's not that I am looking for something when I pray.
At least I don't think I am...
I am just grateful for what I have
It may not be much.
I am still confused about everything in my life.
And my football team may never win a trophy.
I may never marry a prince or a movie star.
And everything I have could easily be packed into two bags.
But I am here. I am part of someone's future. I am part of someone's present.
And I am already part of someone's past. 
And that means I exist for all time...infinite, like the universe.
That's gratitude my friend, for my life that is both long and incredibly short.
I smile. I pray.

And no, I don't know if there is a god out there who cares about anything I have to say.
A god who cares that I really want George R R Martin to live so I know what happens in the books that he writes.
A god who cares that I really hate Justin Beiber and I really love Jane Austin.
A god who knows that when people say hurtful things to me, I hurt for days. 
A god who cares that I really want my niece to share my love for books.

But here's what I know and while it may not be much, it's the reason I pray.
I have people I love to hug. People who may want to hug me back as well. 
I have books and music and an endless supply of television shows and movies.
I have two feet and I run. 
I have an old ancient pair of shorts, that my mom would dearly love to throw away but I keep hidden away. 
So if it so happens that one day, I meet the man or woman upstairs.
I wouldn't expect to reap the benefits of a life hopefully lived well. 
I would tell that person - dude let's hug.
You need a hug and people tell me my hugs are bloody awkward.
So let's embrace.
And pray. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Thank you Mr Ebert

Thank you Mr Ebert

It was 2am in the morning, when I read a report that said that celebrated critic Roger Ebert had passed away. Generally I only pause when a celebrity passes away but this time around, it hit me like a ton of bricks. My eyes welled up and I couldn't choke back my tears. My favourite writer, critic, human being, the man whose opinion I trusted more than my own had passed away and I was lost.

It would not be an understatement to say that I love movies. Even now I watch up to three films a week eschewing even sleep at times and there is so much more left to explore. I came across Roger Ebert's website when I was teenager, just out of school. Up until that point, I only watched the usual popcorn fare that made box office noise and nothing more and the movies a person with a basic cable connection had access to. But Ebert introduced me to a world so fantastic and wondrous - he introduced me to a world where a great movie not only exists but is also appreciated for its merits and not its stars and a bad is rightfully derided for being, well bad.

With his guidance, I learnt to understand movies from the perspective of its screenplay, the direction, the acting, the background music. It wasn't just about enjoying a film anymore but rather seeing it for all its nitty gritties. I understood what he wrote and he patiently, through humour and empathy guided me. I discovered filmmakers like Errol Morris, Ingmar Bergman and Billy Wilder through him. I still remember the day I read his review on Some like it Hot and rushed to find a copy to view it. That movie was splendid and I laughed so hard that it hurt my sides. He was right as always.

It's not an exaggeration at all to claim that I have read every single review on his website (I have spent close to seven years visiting his website several times a week; do the Math) and have watched nearly 80 per cent of the movies that he recommended (his website has a section titled Great Movies filled with thought provoking analysis of the best films). I read his top 10 lists at the end of each year and even though I didn't always agree with him (I still cannot forgive him for hating Fight Club, a movie I love), I respected his opinion nonetheless. It remains my instinct to this day to immediately Google his review, the second a movie is out. I don't trust any other voice but his own. He was the man who introduced me to Jaws, ET, 3 Sisters, The Seventh Seal, The Graduate, The Godfather, Psycho and more movies than I can list. And today he is gone.

I had a teacher when I was pursuing post graduation from a very prominent communication's institute in the country. This teacher was supposed to take classes on film appreciation but more often than not, his classes were pure torture for me. He put down students for having opinions different from his own and he always made me feel inferior for loving Star Wars. Why am I talking about this teacher, you ask? Well, I thought of him briefly as I read the news about Roger Ebert. It was the period in my life, when watching films was a chore rather than something I did out of passion. Then I read Ebert's review of 500 Days of Summer. It was a movie I loved and it turned out, he loved the movie too. And he was able to articulate, in ways I couldn't why that film spoke to me on an emotional level. The teacher who was paid to teach me to appreciate movies very nearly killed that passion in me but Roger Ebert was the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe that's the reason I feel lost and despondent today. He was my teacher. He was my guide and at times when I direly needed a laugh, he was my tonic for that too (do read his reviews on Movie 43 and North to truly appreciate his caustic yet amazing sense of humour).

He was also one of my inspirations. Cancer or not, voice or not, he never gave up. He kept chugging on, watching movies and spreading his love and passion to the rest of the world. He interacted actively through his website and blog and no matter what life threw at him, he was never down. So, Mr Roger Ebert, I hope you are at peace where ever you are. I hope you know that you have touched the lives of millions through your passion (and your active Tweets which I loved). I hope you are in heaven right now watching the movies you love, by directors you love. I will think of you when I watch a bad movie. I will take you with me when I watch a good one.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thank you Chetan Bhagat for saving and changing me

Dear Mr Bhagat,

I don't know you very well but I consider myself your victim, having read two of your books (Five Point Someone and Two States). I read the former because I bent down to peer pressure and read what everyone else was reading at the time much to my own disappointment and read the latter because a friend insisted that I was exactly like the female protagonist (side note: just because I am also an Iyer from South India does not mean I am anything like the horrendous female protagonist in the book!).

Anyway it is sufficient to say I am familiar with your (bad) prose and therefore as a rule I avoid your column in Times of India and refuse to venture anywhere near your blog for the sake of my own sanity. However unfortunately for me, your words always seem to seep into popular culture (i.e Facebook) and I find myself wondering why anyone would take you seriously. I have however for the most part kept my peace because frankly my dear I could not care any less. However I could not help myself, when I chanced upon your blog on women's day where you have given women advice on how to change themselves for the better. ( I wanted to respond to your highly scientific take on women. Bear with me for a few moments (the emotional fool that I am) and hear what I have to say here.

The first behaviour that needs to end is the constant desire to judge other women. Women are hard on themselves. 

Right at the beginning you have characterised all women as being catty and judgmental.  I am not going to sit here and say that I have never judged anyone in my entire life but rather want to point out that everyone judges and it is not an exclusive trait reserved only for women. According to (Everybody judges) statistics a "first impression is formed in the first 7 to 17 seconds itself. This first impression is based 55 percent on appearance, 7 percent on the words we use during course of our conversation and 38 percent on the tone of the voice" Scientifically it has been proved that everyone is judgmental.I am not hard on my own gender but rather on whole of humanity. So, next time you ask women to stop being such "gossip girls", you might want to take a good hard look at yourself and see how you have in the past judged women severely and frankly quite stupidly. (

The faking needs to end. A common female trait is the relatively quick adaptation to feed male egos.

Oh lord. Where do I begin? Feed male egos? Hardly Mr Bhagat. I suppose no man has ever pretended to have an interest in some random romantic comedy or tv show or a book in order to impress a woman. Men would NEVER stoop to such a level where they have to fake it to make it? I have to the best of my knowledge never pandered to a man just so he would like me but I see no problem in telling a white lie either in order to make someone feel better. Oh both my mother and my father have in occassion lied to one another in order to make the other feel better about a particular situation in life. It's not called pandering Mr Bhagat, it's called being a partner. It's called love. Like I said, I have never pandered to another man in my entire life but I look forward to the day, when I have to hold someone's hand and tell them everything is going to be all right even when I know it's not. Why? Because I want to know what it's like to be in love and really mean it. As long as I don't lose my identity, I should be fine. Thank you for your concern but you can keep it.

Too many Indian women are emotional fools 
Seriously dude,  I am trying to be polite here and you go and call me an emotional fool. I am not even going to justify that behaviour other than to merely point out that there is nothing wrong in at times being emotional or a fool or both. NOTHING.

Women need to become more ambitious and dream bigger.
What does this mean exactly? That even though I am a reporter in a reputed daily, armed with a  Masters degree from a reputed institute and happen to be as a good as anyone at my job, I somehow lack ambition? Please define ambition Mr Bhagat. Is it to get ahead at work? Is it to earn money? To be happy in life? To have a successful family? To be able to brag about having written Harry Potter fiction? Ambition and dreams are subjective and different for everyone. My dream may be to have my football team (Arsenal...Gunners forever!) win the league or to some day run an NGO all by myself. Who are you to judge what my scale for success is?

Don’t be too trapped in the drama of relationships
Oddly enough, this is what truly pissed me off in the article. You are telling me to be selfish here. What makes you think I am not already selfish? Why have you already pigeonholed me into Mother Teresa? Do you know women at all Mr Bhagat? I am confused, happy, angry, emotional, opinionated, passive, funny, redundant, competitive, selfish, self centered and even selfless. Sometimes, all at the same time.  But it's not because I am a's because I am me. An individual. Prone to my own flaws and addicted to my own mistakes. They make me who I am. By giving me attributes without having ever met me is an insult to me and women everywhere. So stop it. Stop telling men to "choose" working women because housewives are "phulkas". Stop telling women to "change" themselves. And please invest some time, energy and money in taking some creative writing courses. You don't have to be Shakespeare but at least you should be capable of stringing two sentences together without falling into cliched traps. Thanks.

Aishhwariya Subramanian