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.