Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mind my space. Please.

I am a space monger. Most out-of-place activities irritate me and I really can get annoyed. It was time I listed a few necessary rules while dealing with me (and hopefully others) in public. For those who do follow these rules, I am grateful you exist. For others, please learn and implement. It is for the good of mankind and community living.

Necessary etiquette while at office or while dealing with strangers:
  • If I adjust my stole at least thrice while we are having a conversation, take the hint. You are looking at my breasts too often.
  • I like how I sit in MY chair. If you find it uncomfortable, don't sit that way. Do NOT tell me how to sit.
  • I don't know you well. We have a cordial relationship. DO NOT touch my phone if you want to ever use your fingers again. And after two warnings, I will clobber you.
  • If I can smell what you ate/ smoked five minutes before you spoke to me, you are too close for comfort. Step back. Pop Altoids. I am getting dizzy.
  • Reading something I am typing in my phone/ computer over my shoulder is rude in any country. I have no clue where you were brought up.
  • Mocking my Hindi when I respect your complete lack of knowledge of the basics of English language will lead you straight to hell. I might do something to quicken the process.
  • I look like a duck haan? Well tough luck. You look like a complete ass to me.
  • Leaning in real close to tell me I made a mistake is not professional. I am a big girl. I can take the loud acknowledgment of the fact.
  • Tapping my knee when we are having a conversation is just strange. Period.
  • When I tell you I will beat you up with my slipper, take the hint. I am not exactly in love with you. Buzz off.
  • Do not linger after our very brain dead conversation. I have already been having a conversation with my evil side in my head for the past ten minutes. So just leave. Painlessly.
  • Telling me I shouldn't do something is frankly none of your business. Despite what you think, I have people who care about me. They will give me the heads up. Thanks. NOT!
If I am the sole freak in this circus, then just humour this as a rant and move on. :D

Friday, November 25, 2011

His remarkable eyes.

Photo by Kalpesh Bhatt

I had the fortune of meeting this boy at my office Children's Day party. He was completely adorable. I fell subtly in love. He was so shy. He barely looked me in the eye. :) But he had truly remarkable, expressive eyes.
He was 5 years old when the riots of 2002 happened in Gujarat. He saw his father get shot in the chest. Somehow, it made him angry he said. He was counselled to let all that anger go. He told me he wants to be an engineer. And never wants his parents to work. :) It was eye opening. Somehow I just wanted to take him, put him in my pocket and shield him from the cruel ways of the world. If only.
None of that is possible I guess. The incident and life after made him grow up faster. I hope it doesn't push him to the dark side.
His name was Saiyed Khaleel. He will probably forget me. But, I can't forget that strange look in his eyes. I don't think it was fear or anger. Maybe it was revenge. And that's what I fear.

The counsellor and I had a detailed conversation about her work with Khaleel in particular. She said and I quote, "He never wanted to play with any other toys but guns." It made me wonder if I am reading too much into his behaviour. Was he just being a child? Did seeing his father get shot by strangers, make him want revenge?
When after talking to me for a few minutes, he said, "I don't want to think about it. Can we not talk about it?" I promptly changed the subject and we discussed the cake he was eating. But to me, the conversation was one I can never forget. 

I might be overreacting (as I am often told), but I genuinely wish for him and for everyone else who was affected by such trauma, the ability to have some peace of mind. Someday. They, too, have a life to live and I hope it won't be clouded by these incidents.

NOTE: The Naroda Patiya case: 95 persons were killed on February, 28, 2002 during the communal violence that erupted after the Godhra train burning incident in Gujarat.

The murky, muddy river: P A Krishnan

The Muddy River falls under the category of political fiction. Though personally I think its foundation was indeed facts. The book revolves around Ramesh Chandran, a bureaucrat who is based in Delhi. The book starts with details of the personal loss of him and his wife.  Like its title, The Muddy River is a murky tale of a kidnapping and bureaucrat Chandran’s quest to have the victim released. But it seems the victim is held by a group of terrorists and with the involvement of politicians and policemen, the issue gets further murky.
Chandran, in turn, converts his quest into a novel – which is presented to the reader in typewriter font. Parts of the novel is occasionally commented on by his two friends, one a Bengali and the other a British lecturer based in Ampleforth and even reviewed by his wife, Sukanya. All these characters seem like an extension of Chandran somehow. As their commentary begins, the novel takes a side step. This method of weaving a story into a story ­– which is entertaining – can often be difficult to follow. But the writer, P A Krishnan, does a brilliant job of it.
The novel is slow to start and begins with letters and incidents that seem to take their time in coming together. The reader understands that a novel is in progress but what seems to be about the death of a child takes a very different turn. One might even begin to question when the tale of the kidnapping (as written on the back of the book) will actually begin. But, for me, it was worth the wait. The beautifully constructed prose made the reading a delight. Despite the usage of multiple big words (whose meanings I had to look up), the style of writing was refreshing and mature.
Getting back to the story, the issue gets murkier because Chandran discovers corruption within his public sector ranks and with his need for honesty, he reveals that he is aware of it. Quite obviously this starts to affect his life.
The book certainly gives an impression that Krishnan is familiar with the intricacies of the Assamese insurgency groups and their counters. Being a former bureaucrat, faults in his knowledge of public sector circles and memos and counter memos cannot be found. Barring a few typos and a little getting used to the constant change in fonts, I couldn’t find much fault with the book.
The currents that he constantly plays against each other, tangling the fictional Chandran with the real Chandran is amazing. Even after you are done reading, it is hard to say when the lines between fiction and reality blur with the character. And the changes in the font style keep pace with these character changes. Personally, the touch of the letters bowled me over. 
As much as the book is an interesting read, it is also insightful. All in all, I find the book worth a read. And definitely more than once.

About the author: P.A. Krishnan started his career as a teacher, became a bureaucrat in the Government of India and shed that mantle to become the CEO of a research foundation. He is presently a Senior Director of a multinational company. An accomplished writer, both in English and Tamil, he lives in Delhi with his wife, Revathi, who is a teacher.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A falcon in the skies

Normally I would never put my professional life on my blog. But this is where the writer in me and the person in me united. Working as a journalist, I don't have a glamorous life. But I had the fortune of meeting a woman who changed the way I view some parts of the world. I am forced to wonder, if she can be positive and not cynical about this world, then so can I.

Here is the interview with a talented Dalit woman writer. Here is the link to the piece in my paper. Click here.

A falcon in the skies

Bama, a 55-year-old Tamil Dalit writer, talks of societal exclusion and struggle for acceptance in her autobiography Karukku, relaunched at the women writers’ colloquium

Srinidhi Raghavan

Photograph by K D Bhatt
City-based writer Esther David in her introduction to Bama, a renowed Tamil Dalit writer, spoke of their experience in Paris many years ago. Both Bama and Esther were called to talk about their writing at a conference. When Bama got up to speak, the audience erupted in anger and did not allow her to say a word. The two of them pleaded with the audience to be seated and half-an-hour later, Bama was heard.

“Social exclusion is the story of my life,” Bama says with a defiant smile. Her calm and down-to-earth demeanour belies her struggle for survival in a harsh, opinionated world.

Her book.
“I was an angry young child. Growing up and writing about my struggles gave me clarity on how to channel this anger. For a long time, my life as a Dalit woman was defined by someone else. Even being a human was not in my hands. When I realised that I can live my life on my terms, I did just that. Swimming against the tide brought me a lot of scorn from the society. But eventually, my family, friends and the people of my village realised that these stories were part of our collective struggle,” Bama says.

Bama is a 55-year-old single woman, who apart from writing, teaches schoolchildren in a small village in Tamil Nadu. She describes the beginning of her writing career as “purely accidental” and “therapeutic”. She wrote her first novel ‘Karukku’ in 1992. It was published after much struggle as publishers and critics felt her style, language and narration were not compelling enough.

“My guide, Father Mark, read my work and felt that it would be a great publication. When Mark approached a professor for a critique, the latter threw my work away, calling it rubbish. I am glad I was not present at that moment because I would have been crushed. But, almost 20 years later, the stories I told in 1992 are still relevant,” she adds with a slightly disheartened smile.

The situation, she feels, is changing at a slow pace. “When I left Tamil Nadu, I read an article on Dalits in Uthapuram being allowed to enter a temple. The symbolic entry that came after 22 years of being discriminated against means a lot to the Dalit community. But the photo in the story showed the other side of the spectrum as well. While Dalits entered the temple with broad smiles on their faces, the people of upper caste were seen wailing and screaming, saying the Dalits had polluted the temple. I am overjoyed by the change, but this is only the beginning,” says Bama.

The second edition of the English book published nearly 11 years later was edited to add a ‘10 years later’ section. In the first edition, she says “I am a bird trapped in a cage with broken wings”. On the contrary, her second edition that released a month ago, ends with “I am a falcon soaring in the skies”.

Explaining the antithesis, Bama says, “Though over these past years, I have learnt to fly, I still have my feet firmly on the ground. I might travel to different countries to give speeches about all that I have achieved. But I have to return home to my remote village where my identity of a Dalit woman is intact. I take pride in that.”

Sunday, November 06, 2011

'She's not just a pretty face'

I watch Gilmore Girls obsessively. Yes, I watch episode after episode, over and over again. Recently, I was watching an episode (the one where Lorelai and Rory reunite after not talking for a LONG time) and I wondered what about it made me so addicted and happy? The women I finally concluded. They are the mother-daughter relationship I want to have with my daughter (if I ever have one that is.)

I have always been a woman who loved her girl friends and cherished their presence in my life. I have had the fortune of having absolutely great women friends for most of my life. (They have not all been good but over time, the good ones have stuck.)
I just thought I will stereotype the girlfriends in my life and simultaneously write an ode to the two most beautiful women in my life. Towards Harmony and D!! I have said this a number of times and I repeat and perhaps bore. But I am lucky to have two of the most amazing women and individuals in the world as family. They say you pick your friends, not family. Even if I had a choice, I would have wanted just you’ll.

Here goes:

The laugh-a-lot girlfriend: The one you call cause you don’t want to think about your lousy day. You just want to laugh endlessly about the most pointless things in life. Every part of the conversation is hilarious and a LOL moment. And more often than not there are falling-off-the-chair-laughing moments.

The lends-a-shoulder girlfriend: Not just for those asinine self clicked photos but the girlfriend who will listen to you whine non stop. Who will never tell you 'you exaggerated or overreacted'. The kind that always listens and never tries to ‘change’ or modify the situation.

The lets-change-the-world girlfriend: The one with whom you have made plans to do your bit to change the world. The one who accompanies you on mad ‘activist’ stints and takes part in protests. The one with whom you can discuss what bothers you about the world and its political games. The one who reminds you that sometimes doing your bit is enough.

The lets-get-a-drink-girlfriend: Girl you are so fine and so much fun! The girl who can have fun despite a long work week. The one who loosens up over a drink and spontaneous conversation just flows. The one who is okay with you just watching her dance. The one that will make you feel comfortable in a pool of people which include her boyfriend.

The advice-giving-girlfriend: The girlfriend who gives the perfect advice. The one that knows just what to say when. The one that knows all your insecurities and puts you at ease with a few words. The one that can help you realise what you want by just asking a few sensible questions.

The all-is-well girlfriend: When you don’t talk for days yet know your relationship will pick up just where it left off. The girlfriend who never questions your absence accusingly. The one that has been there since you couldn’t pronounce Constantinopole.

The can-talk-about-anything girlfriend: From sex to blow jobs, she will tell you all that you need and want to know. No questions asked. She has her way of making the situation oh-so-comfortable even if you are completely awkward.

The ultimate-secret-keeping girlfriend: You know when you tell her something it is like telling your dog. No one will ever find out.  The myth of girls blab doesn’t work with her. She knows how much it means to you to keep it quiet and that respect is what is the best thing about her.

Girlfriends are a special breed and I personally think my relationship with them has helped me be a better person. To all women kind and their unique relationships — Cheers to your awesomeness!! :)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Easy to make and awesome to eat!

Anyone who knows me will know I love eating and hate cooking. Its just not as fun as eating, I have always felt. At least for me. So, for me to get off my lazy ass and make myself a meal is rare and usually motivated by lazyness to get out of the house and find a place to eat. Yes, I am very lazy. So, when I had to make something for myself to eat and I needed it to be simple and yummy, I had to fall back on this. The recipe is written by my darling of a sister and simply amazing cook, D!! .

Long hard day Pasta!!

(Follow the link to read the easy to make and yummy to eat recipe)  

"I love to cook, and I love to eat. It can turn my day around. But I do live in Mumbai which can be unbelievably exhausting at times. Some days, while I ride the train back home, I slip into this wonderful fantasy of gorgeous creamy pasta for dinner, but when I get back home and wander into the kitchen I can’t muster the strength required for it.

So one of these days I was digging through my kitchen cupboard to find me something healthy and tasty to eat when I stumbled upon the packet of instant soup sitting there. So here’s what I did.. I like to call this Long Hard Day Pasta."


And finally.. a photo of my meal which I had with a glass of Real peach juice and Gilmore Girls. :-)

Thank you D!! For making my cooking as simple as the eating! :-)